3.132 education and universities, cont. (35)
Willard McCarty (MCCARTY@VM.EPAS.UTORONTO.CA)
Sat, 17 Jun 89 15:23:49 EDT
Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 3, No. 132. Saturday, 17 Jun 1989.
Date: Fri, 16 Jun 89 18:00:00 EDT
I enjoyed Brian Whittaker's witty remarks in the matter of general
education, but I wonder if he's got it quite right. As one who
taught "great books" to undergraduates for many years (including a
stint at Chicago in the 1960's), I don't recognize my former colleagues
or myself in his description. We/I taught neither "skills" nor--
God forbid--"values". The main goal was never to teach students
*how* to think, but simply to ask questions, to wonder.
Take the case of the young man in Frost's poem, who "studied Latin like the
violin because he liked it". Was he acquiring a skill? The Cunning Artificer
seems to imply that even an instrument can be approached non-instrumentally.
So too with the Jewish tradition of "torah l'shma", (the study of) Torah for
it's own sake. What skills does a Torah scholar seek: do I hear an ability
to think clearly? Not in my experience.
Is it for that matter different for any of us? Are we not all committed
to learning for its own sake, because it's holy? Why then can this not
be a teacher's principal, even exclusive, goal?
As to values, well. I suppose I would listen more attentively
than I do to those who play that tune if they were not all too often the very
people whose behavior as colleagues and faculty politicians we find despicable.