Tuesday, September 11, 2007

In interiore homine habitat veritas

Not to worry, I wont always bother you with my school readings, but I thought this one, which I am required to read before orientation, is especially relevant to this audience. Let me share a few excerpts from "On Democracy and Education" composed for the UChicago class of 2011:

"One week later, again in the fall of 2005, I keep a phone appointment to talk with the head of the committee that is searching for a new Dean for the School of Education in one of our nation's most prestigious universities. Hereafter I'll just refer to the university as X. They want my advice, or think that they want it. Since, as a result of the first two incidents and many others of a similar nature, I'm already alarmed about the future of the humanities and the arts in primary and secondary education, I lay out for this woman my views about education for democratic citizenship, stressing the crucial importance of critical thinking, knowledge about the many cultures and groups that make up one's nation and one's world, and the ability to imagine the situation of another person, abilities that I see as crucial for the very survival of democratic self-government in the modern world. To me it seemed that I was saying the same thing I talk about all the time, pretty familiar stuff. But to this woman it was utterly new. “How surprising,” says she, “no one else I've talked to has mentioned any of these things at all. We have been talking only about how X University can contribute to scientific and technical progress around the world, and that's the thing that our President is really interested in. But what you say is very interesting, and I really want to think about it.”

"Today, however, these insights of Tagore and Dewey are ignored, in favor of an education for economic success. Whether a nation is aspiring to a greater share of the market, like India, or struggling to protect jobs, like the U. S., the imagination and the critical faculties look like useless paraphernalia, and people even have increasing contempt for them.
Indeed, most outrageously and thoughtlessly, the U. S. is currently egging on other nations to emulate our worst, not best, traits. The two major universities I have mentioned are both very strongly concerned with educational initiatives abroad. Needless to say, given my examples, these initiatives do not focus on the creation of sympathy and the cultivation of critical thinking.
What will we have, if these trends continue? Nations of technically trained people who don't know how to criticize authority, useful profit-makers with obtuse imaginations. I believe that outrage is called for, on the part of every person who cares about the future of democracy in the world, and I think intellectuals should be leading the expression of outrage.

the rest found at: https://classof2011.uchicago.edu/orientation-reading.pdf


Paddy said...

'future of democracy' - HA! It's already dead here in the US.

Paddy said...

And notice the call to outrage is to "every person who carse about democracy." Unfortunately, we have already created a couple generations of people who care nothing of democracy; and those who DO vote, elected an administration more concerned with Jesus and private wealth accumulation (amazing how evangelicals combine the two, eh)than preserving and promoting democratic institutions. Clear example is the attempted democratic uprising in Burma - now there's a democratic movement that could have been supported by the intervention of a great power. If Mr. Bush actually cared as much as he pretends about promoting world-wide democracy, he might have recalled the intervention of France in 1777...oh, that's right, he never learned history. Good thing though that "childrens do learn" - perhaps there's still hope.