Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Grammar School

[Note: I originally framed this post with some critical remarks on the current state of higher education. Rereading them today, I've decided against putting it exactly that way for now. There is of course an implicit critique of the status quo in this proposal, but I'm not sure that that particular way of making it explicit really captured it.]

I want to spend a few post on a utopia that I have written about before. I think all university education (at least in the humanities) should be centred on the reading and rereading of a handful of books. Six books, to be precise. The list of books can of course be discussed, and schools could differentiate themselves by their choices. The key is to make sure that, whatever material is selected, students are encouraged and expected to return to the same, shared set of works again and again in the course of their (typically) four years of undergraduate study.

While I sometimes call it the Department of Western Thought or the Department of Modern Language (not quite sure what the MLA would think, though), it might also simply be called the Grammar School. Back in classical times, the teaching of grammar included the study of literature. I think that is the spirit of what I'm driving at.

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