This article is a Christmas gift from me to you.
Leon Wieseltier of The New Republic has written one of the most eloquent explanations of why we need teachers, schools, and universities.
At a time when we hear hosannas to online learning, home-schooling, inexperienced teachers, the business model of schooling, for-profit schools, and the commodification of education, this is bracing reading.
Here is the way that Wieseltier’s wonderful article ends:
“THE PRESIDENT IS RIGHT that we should “out-educate” other countries, but he is wrong that we should do so only, or mainly, to “out-compete.” Surely the primary objectives of education are the formation of the self and the formation of the citizen. A political order based on the expression of opinion imposes an intellectual obligation upon the individual, who cannot acquit himself of his democratic duty without an ability to reason, a familiarity with argument, a historical memory. An ignorant citizen is a traitor to an open society. The demagoguery of the media, which is covertly structural when it is not overtly ideological, demands a countervailing force of knowledgeable reflection. (There are certainly too many unemployed young people in America, but not because they have read too many books.) And the schooling of inwardness matters even more in the lives of parents and children, husbands and wives, friends and lovers, where meanings are often ambiguous and interpretations determine fates. The equation of virtue with wealth, of enlightenment with success, is no less repulsive in a t-shirt than in a suit. How much about human existence can be inferred from a start-up? Shakespeare or Undrip: I should have thought that the choice was easy. Entrepreneurship is not a full human education, and living is never just succeeding, and the humanities are always pertinent. In pain or in sorrow, who needs a quant? There are enormities of experience, horrors, crimes, disasters, tragedies, which revive the appetite for wisdom, and for the old sources, however imprecise, of wisdom—a massacre of schoolchildren, for example.”