Sunday, October 30, 2011

Wisdom is Best Taught in a Small Liberal Arts College

The final fruit of the "Wisdom and the Liberal Arts Conference" at Baylor University for me is that wisdom is best taught when a small group of students work with a wiser guide through great texts and with great examples to develop in themselves habits of wise judgment.

The several plenary speakers from large research universities lamented the "crisis of the humanities" which prevented "the academy" from doing this anymore. Several were famous and got invited to speak because they had written books about this crisis. Others, less famous and from less august universities, lamented how professional and vocational training was driving out the inculcation of wisdom through the liberal arts.

Yet what they described as the ideal circumstance for teaching wisdom sounded to me like the ordinary condition of a small liberal arts college.

And the irony was that the speakers issuing these laments did not have time to teach that way themselves because they had to spend all their time writing books - including the ones lamenting the decline of teaching wisdom.

Once again, I go home to Centre College thinking that the grass in greener in Danville.

2 comments:

ceemac said...

Interesting that this conference was at Baylor.

I live in Dallas so have followed the conflicts at Baylor over the last decade as an educator with no ties to Baylor.

The Liberal vs Conservative angle has gotten most of the press.

But from my observations and conversations that is not the real conflict.

Baylor has historically been a "Texas sized" version of a small liberal arts college. But much of the focus the last decade or so has been on turning Baylor into a large research university. And that makes many long time members of the "Baylor Family" very unhappy.

gruntled said...

Baylor is trying to become a research university while remaining Christian. No Protestant institution in this country has ever done that. I think their eye has been on that ball.

They have been so worried about the effect of a research orientation on their Christianity that they have not given as much thought to the effect of a research orientation on their undergraduate teaching mission.

(So, ceemac, I am agreeing with you.)