Monday, June 09, 2008

The Purpose of a Liberal Education

Winnipeg rich guy Ray McFeetors decides to donate millions for student housing at his old university. "I have great stories from residence," he says, describing the homebrew still they built, the makeshift cannon that fired fruit into town. Ah 'varsity, the pranks, the craziness, the drunken camaderie....

I can imagine the university president and PR director slapping their foreheads; that ain't quite the image they spend so much to create. But they will take the money. I read the story alongside Christina McCall's memoir (see below) of the rigorous classical education she got as an undergraduate in the early 1950s, which had me reflecting on the mediocrity that mass higher education began to sink toward about that time.

But we are all self-educated anyway (he said, thinking fondly of a daughter thriving both at residence life and at educating herself while in university). The brightest undergraduate I knew gave up a lavish scholarship to Cambridge, went to law school in Vancouver, and has thrived ever since. The very dumbest graduate student I ever encountered was happily ensconsed at Yale, and doubtless now has a tenured position somewhere similar.

"I'll go over and lecture the students on how to have fun at university," says McFeetors. Like they need that!
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