Teaching on Purpose
On September 16, 2007, Yale Law Professor Anthony Kronman published an essay in the online edition of the Boston Globe, provocatively criticizing today’s elite colleges for neglecting to address the most fundamental question of all. This is, Kronman wrote, “the question of the meaning of life, of what one should care about and why, of what living is for. In a shift of historic importance, colleges and universities have largely abandoned the idea that life’s most important question is an appropriate subject for the classroom.”
“In doing so,” continued Kronman, “they have betrayed their students by depriving them of the chance to explore it in an organized way, before they are caught up in their careers and preoccupied with the urgent business of living itself.” This, of course, is something that critics of modern liberal education have been saying for years, and it’s refreshing to hear it from a Yale professor. This is not just an academic question, a matter of what students study, but a critical, blameworthy failure.
Kronman also is worried about the consequences for society as a whole. He warns, “This abandonment has also helped create a society in which deeper questions of values are left in the hands of those motivated by religious conviction—a disturbing and dangerous development.” I understand this to mean that the development is disturbing and dangerous because Kronman is worried that religiously motivated people will not accept the naturalistic worldview that is mostly taken for granted in the classrooms of secular universities like Yale.
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Phillip E. Johnson is Professor of Law (emeritus) at the University of California at Berkeley. He is the author of Darwin on Trial, The Wedge of Truth, The Right Questions (InterVarsity Press), and other books challenging the naturalistic assumptions that dominate modern culture. He is a contributing editor of Touchstone.
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