Friday, July 25, 2014
...Education policymakers and reformers don’t champion the humanities chiefly because, for all the noise they make about keeping us aware of our higher purposes or enriching us with the noble and beautiful, the humanities as actually taught and studied today have virtually nothing profound or even interesting to say. “The humanities’ diminished state is to a large degree self-inflicted . . . Much of what is rewarded as advanced thinking on campus is undecipherable, trivial, filtered, or capricious. Hiring, tenure, soft money, and university publishing help protect these modes of thought.”Dehumanizing...Reduction...Mere - those words ring and ring in my head as I read that. There are two phenomena I see that result in this bleak picture.
It is ironic that, far from helping us understand what it means to be human, the humanities are deeply dehumanizing. When they are not enslaving us to arbitrary identity categories based on our race, sex, class, and (now) sexual preference, they are exalting the sovereign self and its arbitrary tastes as the measure of all things. Math and science are generally the fields singled out as allegedly hostile to the cultivation of humane life. It’s true that scientific technocracy is a real danger, but it’s not clear to me why a pseudo-scientific reduction of the human being to a mere material body is more dehumanizing, or more on the rise in our culture, than a pseudo-humanist reduction of the human being to a mere receptor of aesthetic stimuli, or a mere participant in identity politics. Indeed, the worst reductionists among the humanities and the worst reductionists among the sciences often join arms and make common cause...
The first is the view that education is the passing on of "information." It's not - education is about knowledge and wisdom. Information is reducible; knowledge and wisdom are expansive. Information can be reduced, packaged and readily and objectively measured. Knowledge and wisdom involve things like character in the application of the information, something that can only be judged subjectively. Any fool can pass on information, only a person of knowledge, wisdom and character can pass on knowledge and wisdom. Information can be placed in a computer program and passed on in an entirely mechanical fashion. Passing on knowledge and wisdom requires messy human interaction.
The second is the absence of God. This has been said so often that it is almost cliche' But truly when there is no Almighty to make man look upward, all becomes merely mechanical.
I blame the church for this. We have retreated into therapeutic personal religion and left the world to rot.