Monday, December 7, 2009

But what will you DO with that?!

"...at least one philosophy course, and, more adequately two, should be required of every undergraduate. Of course an education of this kind would require a major shift in our resources and priorities, and, if successful, it would produce in our students habits of mind which would unfit them for the contemporary world. But to unfit our students for the contemporary world ought in any case to be one of our educational aims." - Alasdair MacIntyre

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Are the readers of Pink Scare to take this as an indictment of liberal arts education in general, or only philosophy courses in particular?

T said...

I don't see that this is an indictment at all: the thought here is that any form of education that has no dissonance whatsoever with existing states of affairs is suspect.

In a certain way, being "unfit" for the contemporary world is a political necessity: an educational program that merely enabled one to most smoothly accommodate to and function within the coordinates of capitalism would be no education at all. MacIntyre's thought is that the demands of education should not be collapsed into the demands of contemporary capitalism (e.g. future managers for corporate firms, docile workforces, careerist individuals who'll do anything to work within existing configurations of power, etc.)

Many times- people are literally speechless when one tells them that one majored (or worse... continues to study) in philosophy, literature, political theory, and so on. They are speechless because they don't understand why somebody wouldn't just instrumentalize institutions of higher learning in order to get a maximally lucrative job (no matter what it is). This attitude is an exemplification of what it is to be "fit" for contemporary society.

But Macintyre's point is that this attitude belies a poverty of education: if nothing else, education should be about equipping people to think critically and ask big questions, e.g. to ask why it is that this careerist attitude has such currency, or to ask whether the system in which we live is itself justifiable (rather than unreflectively assuming its legitimacy).

Anonymous said...

T, thanks for the clarification. I suffered some context-fail with your piece's title.