Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Liberal Arts, Going, Going, Gone! I Hope Not.

I often think about my parent’s desire to see that my sister and I got an education. My father, who had not been able to graduate from high school because the poverty in his large family demanded that the older siblings go to work, never stopped pushing and hoping. My mother, who had been a housewife most of her married life, went back to work in order to help with my sister’s education.

How deeply it would have offended both of them to see how literacy, education, and social responsibility have been devalued in today’s political environment. Empathy for the people, and basic knowledge of how the political system can and should work is no longer even a requirement for seeking political office; it is in fact often seen as a drawback. Populist rage rather than reason fuels our campaigns. Candidates and their supporters mock informed judgment at best and lie through their teeth (think death panels here) at the worst.

Meanwhile the center of gravity in our culture and our education system is shifting. My college education and my career as a liberal arts college faculty member seemed to balance the shaping of a thinking moral being with career knowledge. Now, more and more schools seem only to be expensive certification factories. Efficient “thruput” drives them to raise class sizes and grades in order to speed students through the system. Parents look for value for money as measured by the professional entry ticket that is delivered. In my judgment increasing specialization tends to rot both faculty and students. They are cut off from social problems, civic participation, and the beauty of everyday life and art. What is left is the insular business of teaching people how to succeed or be competitive in their field instead of how to think and feel in a human fashion. And I am not sure that we can test our way out of this predicament.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

The Big Snow of 2011

They warned us for days and the warning was true.

 Da snow came down and down and down and the wind she blew and blew and blew.  When it died down we had around 18 inches or so, but it was the drifts the went higher. The driveway needed the attention of more than my little snowblower, but we did mange to punch an aisle out front for the mail carrier and the itinerant pedestrian or two.

We gone through winters when we barely shoveled at all and once every ten or fifteen years we have received one of these monsters.  It's sort of the midwestern equivilent of Arizona's so called "dry heat."

Spring is just around the corner. Hang in there.