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Teaching humanitiess…the state of things

April 5, 2006

Teaching humanities…state of things

Doing a little google-search on this week’s topic of big ideas vs. job-skills, I was curious as to the web-wisdom on the topic.  So, here is a brief compilation of what I found:

It seems that through the humanities, the most elite and the most marginal segments of our society can teach something to each other.

In an era when global capitalism reverts to inequality, war, and crisis, rock and roll is one of many ways to reinvigorate the pressing teachings of the humanities.

  • A local news story on a cross-departmental SUNY offering where scientists teach an intro humanities course.

While helping my love through a stint at Brand U, I was able to adjunct an intro-Classics course (Classics broadly defined).  I enjoyed the course tremendously.  The students actually read the ancient texts, and we found points of reference and application.  It was true “big ideas” coming into modern life, full of specific and meaningful applications.  Dean Dad would have been proud.

However, I am fast approaching the old consensus that big ideas, as institutionalized in a degree, are more readily presented and accepted according to class lines.  That is, those with the money for leisure time (which is what Dean Dad was calling for) are more likely to seek out opportunities for engagement with big ideas over those who may feel the call to seek them out, but that simply don’t have the time or means.

Think I am overstating things?

  1. Dr. Crazy permalink
    April 5, 2006 6:11 pm


    I think that perhaps you’re not overstating things but something about your analysis does seem a bit off to me. While it is true that those with money/leisure seek out more conventional opportunities for engagement with big ideas (the all-night-long conversations in dorm-rooms, etc.) or are more willing to engage in intellectual posturing, I think (though i may be wrong) that students without time/means for those more conventional engagements are still interested in the big ideas if they think that by thinking these big thoughts that it will in some way help them to become “educated” or confer upon them some cultural capital. I tend to have great success with canonical texts with these kinds of students because they feel like they’re reading stuff that is “worth” reading – much less success with stuff that hasn’t been given the canonical seal of approval.

  2. Piss Poor Prof permalink
    April 6, 2006 1:56 pm

    Dr. Crazy…you are right. I have not taken into account the upward pull of class–the lure of moving out of ones station through self-exposure to something larger (richer, inclusive, etc.). Hell, I am an example of that myself. I am the only member of my family to get a college degree, much less an advanced degree.

    I guess I ignore this aspect (at my peril) because it seems that this drive kicks in for only a small, almost DuBois-ean percentage (W.E.B. DuBois argued that the elite 10% were the ones worthy of the finest education and that they would pull the rest to a higher level by association–see Rich Uncle theory number 7).

    Thanks for keeping me on track.

    I will move to be less topic driven and more critically engaged. 🙂

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