Saturday, April 13, 2013

Plato and Bacon

The Man of Virtue sings of Bowdoin and the NAS:
[In his Forward to What Does Bowdoin Teach?Bill] Bennett begins by asserting that “Plato… remarked that the two most important questions in society are ‘Who teaches the children?’ and ’What do they teach them?’” Unfortunately, Plato “remarks” no such thing, at least in any of the works known to me (I invite readers to correct me if I’m wrong). I suppose that the phrase could be a reasonable, if rather simplistic summary of Plato’s thought about education. But the actual source appears to be a Michelle Malkin column. The phrase also appears, without a specific citation, on a number of cut-and-paste quote sites. Misquotation happens all the time, of course. But it’s a bad start for a defense of traditional education–particularly one that claims that Bowdoin students aren’t learning enough about Greek philosophy.
Here's something else Plato didn't say:
The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.
And Plato wasn't talking about Butterbean Bennett when he didn't say it, though if the quote fits, wear it.

Anyway, had Plato answered the questions he didn't ask, his preferred answers would not have been "homeschoolers" and "wingnuttery."  If one wanted to stoop to conquer, one could argue that Plato was Melissa Harris-Perry back in the day.

In the same two-page Forward, at page 10, Butterbean also uses a fake Lincoln quote.
Many institutions frown on this sort of thing.

But we shouldn't be too hard on Big Bill.  When you pay someone minimum wage to bloviate under your name, you're bound to get inferior work product.

(link via Dr. Berube)


Anonymous said...

That's not a bad essay in the American Conservative, much to my surprise. The point he makes at the end of the essay--that in substituting a "cafeteria" approach to education (at least insofar as it relates to Freshman) Bowdoin may be unconciously re-creating or fostering differences between upper and lower class students--is a pretty damned good one.

My husband went to an excellent public highschool and thence to Harvard. I went from an excellent private highschool to Harvard. His Freshmen roomates were all private school kids. He always felt a little disabled, with respect to them, because he simply didn't have some of the skills that they had in choosing courses, in dealing with professors, etc...etc..etc...

My daughter is currently at a top private highschool with a "classical" curriculum. There is basically zero choice in the first two years and all the students--regardless of their interests in science or the humanities--must study either greek or latin and take the same history courses. The end result is an entire student body who, regardless of their class background, shares a common body of knowledge and a common orientation to learning and to inquiry.

I'm as leftist and anarchic in my approach to information as you can get. I celebrate what Bowdoin is doing and, frankly, I'm going to look at it for my daughter because it sounds terrific. But if a kid is the first in their family to get to college or if they went to a regular public highschool they may miss out on some common core kinds of discussions and classes which would make it possible for all the students to experience college together and move forward together.

I'm not sure this is actually the case at Bowdoin because I'm damned if I'll read this craptacular report. It may be the case that the report confuses freshmen seminars--which are always full of interesting and non traditional (and even flakey) subjects with a lack of focus in the college as a whole.

But I do think there's a value in making sure all the kids start from the same place and take some of the same courses in overlapping fields. I don't see that this has to mean fewer multi-culti courses or a focus on traditional western civ either. Just that the college might want to think about making sure that all the kids share some stuff rather than specializing very early. Its all the same to me if the kids all take "feminist issues in Shakespeare's work" or they all take (one of the chief hysteria points) "Queering the garden" and learn to think critically about landscape, nature writing, and sexuality. As long as they all take it together. That's the important thing.


Roger said...

You can read the report as dark comedy. The sexytime part (Chapter 5) focuses on two main sins: Teaching consent and queer studies, both of which, the authors conclude, are greenlights for fucking.

The authors are, respectively, a trustee and graduate of The King's College -- home of the original sexytime college president, Dinesh D'Souza.

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Montag said...

Still, it's astonishing that Bennett was both Reagan's pick for chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities and his second Secretary of Education.

Guess he applied the same rigor and erudition to his own education as he did to blackjack.

Dark Avenger said...

You mean slots, that's what he spent his money he 'earned' from lecturing to groups about morality, even though he knew that some of them were Protestant-based groups that have an objection to gambling in principle and in real life.

Anonymous said...

Um, "Foreword," not "Forward."

Anonymous said...

The guy who wrote the report is supposed to be an anthropologist but I can't find anything he's published. It makes it all the funnier that, as wonkette points out, he doesn't seem to know what an ethnography would look like. SEK over at Lawyers Guns and Money links to an amazing story this week of academic turpitude and malfeasance which makes me really start to query the bona fides of people who represent themselves as having degrees or academic interests in things at all. I'm wondering who this anthropologist is and whether he ever really published anything in his field.

Bagus Pribadi said...

Still, it's astonishing that Bennett was both Reagan's pick for chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities and his second Secretary of Education.

Guess he applied the same rigor and erudition to his own education as he did to blackjack.Era informasi

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What did the old Greek sod say when he was taking it up the ass?

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