03 January, 2011

Newman Redux

In a response to an article by Roger Scruton, in which he employs Newman as a lens for examining the contemporary university, The Little Professor (Dr. Miriam Burstein) reminds her readers of how complicated the reception of Newman's ideas may be:


Indeed, we can peg Newman as both a conservative and a radical. A lot of inside baseball? Perhaps. At the same time, Newman's problematical legacy provides much to consider for those who care about Lutheran higher education. In what ways is it beneficial for our institutions to embrace this paradox? How might we both conserve the past, challenge the present, and change the future? To what extent does an educational institution committed to confessional Lutheranism provide the perfect foundation from which to negotiate between these two extremes?

Happy New Year!

Over the semester break, I have tried to catch up on some reading, and I came across an open letter that Gregory Petsko posted as a response to the cuts that SUNY Albany is making to its foreign language and classics programs:


Now, I don't agree with every point Dr. Petsko makes. For example, I don't think a student has to come into contact with a Russian department to appreciate Dostoyevsky or that meeting a set of distribution requirements automatically gives students a rich liberal education. At the same time, anyone who has hung around the colleges affiliated with the old synodical conference knows that this is just not how people on those campuses talk to each other. But, I quibble. If you can move past those issues, I think it's important to note a couple of Dr. Petsko's points:

(1) I love his emphasis on the concept of universitas. The university is a place where the humanities contribute to the education of the "whole" person.
(2) I appreciate his articulating the serendipity of the educational process. The person who has been educated in a more "whole" or complete manner is well-prepared to meet the changes and chances that life brings. The best laid plans, etc.

The older I get, the more I think these are important issues to push when students walk through the office or classroom door.