A New Day for Intellectuals

from the Chronicle of Higher Education (13 Feb, 2009):

‘Soon after election day, the columnist Nicholas D. Kristof wrote in The New York Times that the “second most remarkable thing” about the election was that “American voters have just picked a president who is an open, out-of-the-closet, practicing intellectual.”

What goes on here? Was the historian Richard Hofstadter wrong in his classic Anti-Intellectualism in American Life to detect an irresistible current in our society of “resentment and suspicion of the life of the mind and of those who are considered to represent it”? Has that current weakened or been sufficiently dammed up to explain the election of a president who is reflective about history and ideas as well as about policy and practice?

Those questions were in the air last month in Seattle at the annual meeting of the Association of American Colleges and Universities. The association is devoted to promoting liberal education — which it defines as one that develops in students “a strong sense of value, ethics, and civil engagement” — at all levels, from community colleges to research universities. Without discounting the importance of marketable skills, such an education should include the study of literary and historical texts, philosophical questions and scientific concepts, as well as engagement with foreign cultures.’

Read full article here.

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