“The intellect…generally holds in small esteem what is discovered without difficulty.”
So wrote St. Augustine of Hippo in On Christian Doctrine (Book II, Chapter 6).
A few bits of commentary on the quote:
1. In context of Augustine’s text this quote seemed to me to be more a commentary on *attitudes* about knowledge rather than the *accessibility* of knowledge. In other words, we’re weak for not holding in higher esteem those truths that are easily seen. The difficulty of attainment does not guarantee the higher value of any truth.
2. In the context of today’s information ecology, I’m not sure the statement is valid—at all. The general run of people today seem (yes, this is impressionistic) to hold what’s easily accessible as most valuable. Because time is precious, no one wants to take the time to ask deeper questions. We want to assume the work has been done, and the nugget we see is a useful distillation.
3. Though the source makes this aphorism appear useful only to the religious, the book itself is about exegesis and interpretation, and therefore applicable in a much broader context.
What say you?
Not only does the consumer-driven model of education contain many holes (i.e. students are not consumers), but the Wal-mart-ish, Aldi-like, low-price producer driven model also holds forth numerous problems. Here are few salient passages from the article:
Thus, the $10,000 B.A.—which, again, does not include room, board, books, transportation, or child care for the many college students who are single parents—is largely a chimera. But even if it did exist, what kind of message does it send students, or potential employers, that there is now another stratification of college degree: elite private, public flagship, public regional, and now public regional cut-rate? And besides, if a college education can be given for $10,000, why isn’t it available to everyone? …
But students don’t whine about attending required courses because they’re too smart for them; they complain because learning takes work, and that work isn’t just passing a proficiency test. A semester-long course is not just the (temporary) accumulation of (dubious) knowledge or skills—it’s a journey in which, if it’s a good class, students come out different than they were when they started. They not only learn course material, but also develop as thinkers, readers, writers, mathematicians, experimenters, useful humans. I guess you have to hand it to the competency model for giving up entirely on the prospect of growing as a person and instead just offering diplomas you can buy. …
A real solution to the spiraling costs of college would be to take actual substantive measures to bring tuition down for everyone. For example, institutions could simply deflate the artificially inflated “status symbol” sticker price of education. Here’s another revolutionary idea (I am being sarcastic; almost everyone agrees with me): Perhaps universities should cease paying administrators, with ever-more-ludicrous job titles (“executive dean”), like they’re Fortune 500 bigwigs. Finally, enough already with the resort-style dormitories and “amenities.” Eighteen-year-olds are delighted enough to be living away from home; they do not need a stadium-seated media room on every floor, especially because they will just cover it in vomit.
In sum, the price-point model is not the solution to cost-problem in higher education. It’s a non-standard, irrational market. The market is driven by the ever subjective standard of prestige perception. Furthermore, if one is willing to set aside prestige as a price factor, it’s still true that a quality liberal arts education holds forth immense personal and financial rewards. These variables mean that higher education is a public good, one that should be regulated for the betterment of society at large. In democratic societies, where equality is (supposed to be) highly valued, then access and excellence must be weighted in relation to the common good. Democratic education demands both high quality and affordable prices, two things that can never be balanced in a capitalist society predicated on exchange value. – TL
File this under surprising academic/professional intersections: I just learned that patients who, for whatever reason, give less than adequate accounts of their past health to their doctors are referred to, by physicians, as “poor historians.”
I guess this is just one more reason for people to learn proper historical thinking as early as possible. Your present life may depend on your liberal arts acumen—your ability to give a rich and proper accounting of yourself to someone who might be able to help you. – TL
Why is it that many intelligent people—especially academics, but even many liberal intellectuals who believe in human rights and espouse the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)—won’t generally acknowledge their belief in universal principles, or philosophical universals? I’ve been thinking about this for years, but haven’t yet come up with a solid answer. Of course hanging out with historians doesn’t really help—since we’re all circumstance this, context that, contingency this, situations matter, etc. It’s a great paradox.
What’s the solution? – TL
Today I posted on this topic at the USIH blog. Because the write-up contains a number of personal reflections, it seems appropriate to redirect TTH readers over there. Thanks in advance for checking it out. – TL
An old friend from Monmouth College wrote to ask my opinion of “the most significant events in national & world sports history?” I’m no expert in expert on this subject, and have never taught a class dedicated to sports history. But I do occasionally teach on sports in my U.S. survey. So I gave her my off-the-cuff thoughts.
Caveats: (1) What follows is in chronological order; (2) The list has an American emphasis; (3) The list has a 20th century emphasis; and (4) Some “events” are really date associations with specific teams/people.
Here goes: Read more…
I’ve read a lot of history, theology, and philosophy in my day, but for me this book ranks up there in difficulty with Plotinus (read large portions, eventually abandoned), Aquinas (read large portions of), Aristotle (read and skimmed everything in Britannica’s set), Derrida (it’s hard but can see his point after awhile), etc.
Guillory’s book was hard for several reasons: (a) I know the base issues that drove his work, so I found myself pausing to agree/disagree; (b) The topics I didn’t know from literary theory made me double-check and double-back; (c) I have an aversion to poststructuralist literary theory; (d) I’ve not read a word of Barbara Herrnstein Smith; (e) If I’ve read Gray’s *Elegy*, it was so long ago I’ve forgotten it; (f) I’ve never been drawn to Paul de Man or the “affair” surrounding him; and, finally, (g) The book is 392 pages with notes (and yes, I read the notes).
I realize that “hard” comes in different styles and packages, but what’s the hardest book you’ve ever read? – TL