Books were understood to be a storehouse of wisdom from the past, a treasury and repository of hard-won experience and knowledge of these limits. What these books taught was itself a justification for an education centered around them. Because the present and future were believed to be fundamentally identical to the past, the past was understood to be a source of wisdom about our condition as humans in a world that we do not command. An education in great books was itself a consequence of a philosophical worldview, and not merely an education from which we derived a worldview (much less sought an education in critical thinking).
Students need to know about the current scientific consensus on a given issue, but they also need to be able to evaluate critically the evidence on which that consensus rests. They need to learn about competing interpretations of the evidence offered by scientists, as well as anomalies that aren’t well explained by existing theories. Yet in many schools today, instruction about controversial scientific issues is closer to propaganda than education. Teaching about global warming is about as nuanced as Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. Discussions about human sexuality recycle the junk science of biologist Alfred Kinsey and other ideologically driven researchers. And lessons about evolution present a caricature of modern evolutionary theory that papers over problems and fails to distinguish between fact and speculation. In these areas, the “scientific” view is increasingly offered to students as a neat package of dogmatic assertions that just happens to parallel the political and cultural agenda of the Left. Real science, however, is a lot more messy — and interesting — than a set of ideological talking points. Most conservatives recognize this truth already when it comes to global warming. They know that whatever consensus exists among scientists about global warming, legitimate questions remain about its future impact on the environment, its various causes, and the best policies to combat it. They realize that efforts to suppress conflicting evidence and dissenting interpretations related to global warming actually compromise the cause of good science education rather than promote it. The effort to suppress dissenting views on global warming is a part of a broader campaign to demonize any questioning of the “consensus” view on a whole range of controversial scientific issues — from embryonic stem-cell research to Darwinian evolution — and to brand such interest in healthy debate as a “war on science.”
This volume brings together for the first time more than two dozen of Daphne PataiOs incisive and at times satirical essays dealing with the academic and intellectual orthodoxies of our time. Patai draws on her years of experience in an increasingly bizarre academic world, where a stifling politicization threatens genuine teaching and learning. Addressing the rise of feminist dogma, the domination of politics over knowledge, the shoddy thinking and moralizing that hide behind identity politics, and the degradation of scholarship, her essays offer a resounding defense of liberal values. Patai takes aim at the unctuous and also dangerous posturing that has brought us restrictive speech codes, harassment policies, and a vigilante atmosphere, while suppressing plain speaking about crucial issues. But these trenchant essays are not limited to academic life, for the ideas and practices popularized there have spread far beyond campus borders. Included are two new pieces written especially for this volume, one on the
In September 1980 Charles Malik gave a powerful talk on the need for evangelicals to reclaim the mind, and to reclaim the universities. It was published that year in a brief book called The Two Tasks. A century after his birth, a number of Christian scholars, including his son, commemorates Malik and his stirring address. Thus this book. Seven Christian thinkers, including Peter Kreeft and William Lane Craig, remind us of the crucial importance of what Charles Malik said on that September day. And it was indeed a vital message. I have pulled from my shelves that quite thin volume (a mere 37 pages) and reread that incisive message. Malik rightly said that the “greatest danger besetting American Evangelical Christianity is the danger of anti-intellectualism.” He also said that the most urgent need is “not only to win souls but to save minds”. He correctly noted that the universities are the real battle ground today, and we need to see Christ exalted there as much as anywhere else. ~ William Muehlenberg at Amazon.com
For example. If I stood up in a classroom at Brown or Harvard or Yale and declared, “Let the best man win,” the students would turn into a human sprinkler-system of deconstructing inquiry. What do you mean by “man”? What are your criteria for “best”? Why does someone have to “win” at all? Couldn’t we define the task more cooperatively? When you say “let,” who is doing the “letting”? Isn’t that just another way of saying we should “let” the patriarchal capitalist system continue to reward those already deemed “best” (and, therefore, most advantaged)? This word “the,” it seems to connote that there is only a single criterion for determining a privileged status; couldn’t there be a more pluralistic approach? Etc., yawn, etc.
Highly regarded here and abroad for some thirty works of cultural history and criticism, master historian Jacques Barzun has now set down in one continuous narrative the sum of his discoveries and conclusions about the whole of Western culture since 1500. In this account, Barzun describes what Western Man wrought from the Renaisance and Reformation down to the present in the double light of its own time and our pressing concerns. He introduces characters and incidents with his unusual literary style and grace, bringing to the fore those that have “Puritans as Democrats,” “The Monarch’s Revolution,” “The Artist Prophet and Jester” — show the recurrent role of great themes throughout the eras. The triumphs and defeats of five hundred years form an inspiring saga that modifies the current impression of one long tale of oppression by white European males. Women and their deeds are prominent, and freedom (even in sexual matters) is not an invention of the last decades. And when Barzun rates the present not as a culmination but a decline, he is in no way a prophet of doom. Instead, he shows decadence as the creative novelty that will burst forth — tomorrow or the next day. Only after a lifetime of separate studies covering a broad territory could a writer create with such ease the synthesis displayed in this magnificent volume.
It is not surprising that in a country where the vast majority of citizens believe in God, it is controversial to require that the public schools teach as fact (or as implicit in the very definition of “science”) that God played no discernible part in the creation of plants, animals and human beings. It is also not surprising that many citizens, unpersuaded by official reassurances that “science and religion are separate realms,” suspect that a religious or antireligious ideology lies behind the enormous importance science educators attach to persuading young people that evolution is their creator.
In twelve wise, stimulating essays and lectures, a noted Columbia University scholar examines today’s declining culture. Ours, he observes with disgust and discernment, is a period of specialization in which the “torrent of information” compiled is unnecessary, in which college students are diverted to the “minutiae of analytic methodism,” in which the over-production of art has made us into “gluttons who gorge and do not digest.” Barzun examines aspects of literary and art criticism, retrospective sociology, the abandonment of intelligibility, the “rhetoric of numbers,” the effects of relativism on moral behavior and the differences between Art with a capital A , “high art,” public art and domestic art. He avers that the oversupply of fine art increases the need for subsidies; yet, although we pay farmers not to grow crops, we do not pay artists to stop making art. Still, Barzun is consoled by the realization that as long as humans exist, there is hope for “new” civilization and all its works. ~ Reed Business Information, Inc.
One other thing that Arthur taught me was to love the bodies of books. I had always respected them. My brother and I might cut up a stepladder without scruple; to have thumb-marked or dog’s-eared a book would have filled us with shame. But Arthur did not merely respect, he was enamored; and soon, I too. The set up of the page, the feel and smell of the paper, the differing sounds that different papers make as you turn the leaves, became sensuous delights. This revealed to me a flaw in Kirk. How often have I shuddered when he took a new classical text of mine in his gardener’s hands, bent back the boards till they
creaked, and left his sign on every page.
Now it is perfectly true that men must be brought to Christ one by one. There are no labor-saving devices in evangelism. It is all hand-work. An yet it would be a great mistake to suppose that all men are equally well prepared to receive the gospel. It is true that the decisive thing is the regenerative power of God. That can overcome all lack of preparation, and the absence of that makes even the best preparation useless. But as a matter of fact God usually exerts that power in connection with certain prior conditions of the human mind, and it should be ours to create, so far as we can, with the help of God, those favorable conditions for the reception of the gospel. False ideas are the greatest obstacles to the reception of the gospel. We may preach with all the fervor of a reformer and yet succeed only in winning a straggler here and there, if we permit the whole collective thought of the nation or of the world to be controlled by ideas which, by the resisters force of logic, prevent christianity from being regarded as anything more than a harmless delusion. Under such circumstances, what God desires us to do is to destroy the obstacle at its root. Many would have the seminaries combat error by attacking it as it is taught by its popular exponents. Instead of that they confuse their students with a lot of German names unknown outside the walls of the universities. That method of procedure is based simply upon a profound belief in the pervasiveness of ideas. What is today a matter of academic speculation begins tomorrow to move armies and pull down empires. In that second stage, it has gone too far to be combated; the time to stop it was when it was still a matter of impassionate debate. So as Christians we should try to mold the thought of the world in such a way as to make the acceptance of Christianity something more than a logical absurdity.