Freedom from Blog

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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Voice of Liberal Learning

This is something I've been thinking about a lot lately . . . I'm really happy that I did that Ph.D. in political theory, even if isn't something that I "use" in my day-to-day job. Because I'm very happy to have read all those amazing books -- even some of them that I wasn't happy to have been reading at the time. I find that I have few current colleagues who have (really) read Plato, or Locke, or Wittgenstein . . . and most of my colleagues have advanced degrees. I often wonder what it is that they know that I have missed out on. And I'm not sure that I don't "use" my academic training in my day-to-day job. I feel like it informs the way that I look at the world in myriad ways, some of which are elusive, others allusive. For example, I spend some amount of time writing up "best practices" (I will not defend the term, it's the one that mostly other people use). I am often thinking of Aristotle when I am doing this, both in terms of moderation as a wise approach to most things, and in the sense that different kinds of questions can be answered at different levels of specificity. (In my experience, generally not that specifically.) And even when I get in the spirit of "best practices" things, I am in the mindset of Ben Franklin or Machiavelli. Let's draft an aphorism. I am always depressed when one of my (perfect) aphorisms gets swatted down in the review process. But they do. Which reminds me of Camus and Sisyphus and his rock . . . I guess what I'd say is that, no, I'm not endorsing the "Great Books" style curriculum. But I am endorsing it for people like me, even if we end up worrying about things far, far away from any great book. It lends a richness to life that I, for one, am happy to have.


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