Diane Ravitch (whose blog I follow because I often admire her work and opinions) praises an article by Leon Wieseltier in the New Republic as “one of the most eloquent explanations of why we need teachers, schools, and universities.” (I also put this comment at her blog.) I find his article elitist and insulting. This line, which I believe is intended to characterize people who do not attend a traditional American-style four-year college, felt like a slap:
“An ignorant citizen is a traitor to an open society.”
This presumably characterizes everybody without a traditional four-year university degree! What gall. You know, you can be a better person and be an auto mechanic. You don’t turn in your brain or your soul or your love of history or philosophy just because you want to start a business or build things. You don’t have to burn your books or stop attending museum lectures to become a chef or a tech designer. Some people are deeply unhappy in traditional schools or at four-year college. Some people push their way through — whether only part way or all the way to the degree — out of obligation or lack of alternatives acceptable to their snooty culture, and they end up burying their former love of history and despising sonnets for it, or simply feeling inept and awful and out of place because they’re not learning and feeling what everybody says they should. Not everybody finds enlightenment in a rousing classroom discussion; not everybody finds salvation at [cue choir of angels] c~o~l~l~e~g~e. Will you help them find enlightenment — and their own path to meaningful contribution to community — off campus, the way they find it best? No? Then please don’t disparage the people who will.
I support public education and state college. One can do that without insulting those people who need to follow a different path or those people who are helping them do it.
“This is the only way, we say: but there are as many ways as there can be drawn radii from one centre. All change is a miracle to contemplate; but it is a miracle which is taking place every instant.” –Henry David Thoreau, *Walden* (Economy)
“Some are dinning in our ears that we Americans, and moderns generally, are intellectual dwarfs compared with the ancients, or even the Elizabethan men. But what is that to the purpose? A living dog is better than a dead lion. Shall a man go and hang himself because he belongs to the race of pigmies, and not be the biggest pigmy that he can? Let every one mind his own business, and endeavour to be what he was made.” –Henry David Thoreau, *Walden* (Conclusion)