Sunday, November 20, 2005

Slate Goes to College

Slate has a week's worth of worthwhile reading about higher education. Here are just two samples. First, Gish Jen's contribution to a survey on "literary crushes," beloved books from college days:

Robert Fitzgerald's translations of The Iliad and The Odyssey changed my life--as did, I should say, Fitzgerald himself, my favorite professor. I couldn't believe how different his Homer was from Lattimore's--so much more lithe and live. Could translation really make that much difference? And did Homer really come to us through normal humans who played tennis and cracked jokes and wore berets? Suddenly literature was much less remote; suddenly it was something that involved, in one way or another, writers. What an idea!
And second, some excerpts from Astrida Orle Tantillo's essay "What Professors Don't Tell You":
The assault on liberal education from the left presumes that pedagogy must be "student-centered," with professors no longer "teaching" but "facilitating" or serving as "architects of interaction" who "enable" students to teach one another. . . .

The assault on liberal education from the Republican right (from Reagan's "A Nation at Risk" to Bush's No Child Left Behind mission) stems from its desire to prepare students for the workforce (only) and to make schools and universities run more like businesses. . . .

The ultimate problem with the left and the right is that they encourage ever-narrowing educational possibilities. The irony, of course, is that, in the end, neither side gets what it wants: A lack of elitism impairs students from eventually becoming their own teachers in the broadest sense, and teaching students testable skills discourages the kind of creative thinking that is the necessary condition for success in the world.
LINK: "Slate Goes to College"
LINK: "My First Literary Crush"
LINK: Astrida Orle Tantillo, "What Professors Don't Tell You"

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