Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Thought on Larry Arnn's Article

Larry Arnn, President of Hillsdale College, in his Imprimis article (November, 2006) recommends two soloutions to the current problems entrenched in higher education today:

To repair all this and place the education system on a better footing,
there are two things that need doing, neither of them proposed so far during
this reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. The first is that we should
return control of college to private people to the utmost extent possible. The
federal government should do what Reagan suggested: go back to the things it has
the constitutional power to do ...

Or even go one better: Let taxpayers keep
their money, if they are prepared to spend it for something so vital to the
public interest as education.

The second thing is to recover the tradition
of liberal and civic education that has helped to keep us free by teaching us
the purpose of our freedom. To do this, we will have to be willing to take
positions on subjects that are “controversial.” We will have to organize our
colleges to study the great documents of the American past and those upon which
that past was built. This will involve us—gasp—in the study of the Western
canon. This is not merely a good thing; it is “urgent.”

We at SEC agree with Arnn about these two things. We agree that private colleges should take no federal or state aid at all. We fear for like minded private colleges, especially those with religious, especially Christian commitments. Private religious colleges which are on the government dole, and which are tuition driven will likely, maybe even in the next presidential administration, be faced with a dilemma: compromise their missions or lose federal aid.

San Elijo College hopes to avoid this dilemma from the beginning by commiting to avoid entanglement with government bureaucratic encroachment on academic liberty.

We at SEC also agree with Arnn that the way to have a great college, which preserves the best of Western culture and the American experience the west has produced is to master the history, languages, science, philosophy, and religion which produced it. We hope too that this study will allow us to effectively critique problems within the western tradition, while maintaining a clear objectivity to knowledge. This is what CS Lewis calls "alteration from within" the tradition.
In the Abolition of Man ch. 2, Lewis writes "Those who understand the spirit of[natural law, the western tradition] and who have been led by that spirit can modify it in directions which that spirit itself demands. Only they can know what those directions are. The outsider knows nothing about the matter. His attempts at alteration, as we have seen, contradict themselves."

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