Splendid Uselessness by Thomas Albert Howard

Splendid Uselessness

Lost in Thought: The Hidden Pleasures of an Intellectual Life by Zena Hitz

Even before the depredations and indignities of Covid slouched into our lives, American colleges and universities were in a bad way. Leaving soaring tuition and unconscionable levels of student debt aside, progressives have felt that they've sold their souls to "neo-liberalism," peddling status and prestige, engorged with inflated rhetoric, and beholden to the bottom line, while conservatives have decried unhinged "wokeness": lefty professors and diversity bureaucrats forever sniffing out "microaggressions" and enabling "cancel culture."

Both criticisms perhaps contain elements of truth, but the canker might be deeper still: an ingrained inability, in schools and society at large, to articulate compellingly why education matters in the first place and what visions of human flourishing best nourish it. Offering considered, bracing, often passionate answers to both questions is the upshot of Zena Hitz's Lost in Thought: The Hidden Pleasures of an Intellectual Life. A committed Catholic, Hitz wears her faith lightly throughout in an effort to reach a wide audience.

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Thomas Albert Howard is professor of humanities and holder of the Duesenberg Chair in Christian Ethics at Valparaiso University. He is the editor of The Idea of Tradition in the Late Modern World (Cascade, 2020).

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