One vision of the liberal arts

John Emerson has a post titled The College of My Dreams up. He describes his program as a “reactionary leftist” category, and stipulates that ‘actual science and math work, not just “History and Philosophy of Science”‘ would be demanded from students at this institution, which would nevertheless specialize in the humanities. I have many friends who have humanities backgrounds who deeply regret that they took “astronomy 101,” rather than a real introductory level chemistry course. Too often science courses geared towards humanities majors emphasize the facts of science rather than its technique, in other words, ass-backwards. But back at John, I would state that I also think that science graduates should have to complete some sort of University of Chicago-lite (i.e., the common core) sequence which introduces them to a lexicon that allows them to more fully participate in the public life of a republic. The vast majority of individuals with science degrees (i.e., 99%) will not live in a world of academic science for science’s sake, they will be citizens for whom their science background gives them a grounding in their profession or career, but the ends of their life will be more prosaically human.

Of course, all this is fairyland dreaming because the flat-out fact is that college students are getting dumber and dumber. This isn’t because Americans as a whole are dumber, just that more Americans are going to college, and pretty soon you’ll start sampling the genius of the 1 out of 5 Americans who believe that the sun revolves around the earth.

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