Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Y Cant N-E-Body Reede?

Okay, here's Dr. Christopher Phelps discussing the literacy crisis:

"Neither right nor left has yet come to terms with the crisis of literacy and its impact on higher education. The higher education program of liberals revolves around access and diversity, laudable aims that do not speak to intellectual standards. Conservatives, for their part, are prone to wild fantasies about totalitarian leftist domination of the campuses. They cannot imagine a failure even more troubling than indoctrination — the inability of students to assimilate information at all, whether delivered from a perspective of the left or the right."

I agree that neither left nor right has the solution. But, he forgets that other conservative solution- namely, running the university like it was a struggling corporation- has been disasterous as well. Oh, and let's not leave No Child Left Behind out of the equation here. So, they're not "left behind" in High Schools, but they can't read when they get to University? As for the fantasies of totalitarian domination- I agree that those people know nothing about the university, but let's not forget the effect of conservatives teaching their kids to enter the University resenting professors out of hand for their profession- and thus, adding to a cultural distrust and resentment of intellectuals.

Where the conservatives are right though is that it is astounding that a university student can get a degree in English Lit, and come out knowing feminist theory by rote, but not be able to read English Literature. It's a scandal.

As for the left, let's not suggest that race-based admissions quotas haven't helped to push down standards as well. There are schools where black students are admitted with SAT scores as much as 22% lower than their white counterparts- I went to one, in fact. Let's not pretend that this is helping matters.

"How can human thought, sustained for generations through the culture of the book, be preserved in the epoch of television and the computer?"

Oh, how happy I am that we can start blaming the Internet like we do television! It's been absolutely disasterous for intellectual development in spite of all the promises.

"How can a university system dedicated to the public trust and now badly eroded by market forces carry out its civic and intellectual mission without compromising its integrity?"

I think perhaps we need a New New School.

"These questions cry out for answers if we are to stem a tide of semi-literacy that imports nothing less than the erosion of the American mind."

Yes, thanks, we know.

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