Friday, May 16, 2008

Graduation Weekend at Georgetown

So many happy, expectant faces. Visions of success, travel, adventure. Proud parents. Professors in robes, as if they profess their faith. The students are good kids, and have been taught well by their elders about a world that has existed for about 150 years and yet which increasingly seems fragile, tenuous, even fanciful. They have few resources, have been taught little that will stand them in good stead, for a world that will be different. It all seems a bit surreal to me. I wish them all well - and hope that their future will not feel like a mugging.

(h/t J.P.)


papabear said...

Professor Deneen, do you raise these sort of topics in your classroom? With colleagues? It seems to me that academia in general is rather insulated from these sorts of concerns.

Patrick Deneen said...

More than insulated - academia is an institution firmly ensconced within the optimistic assumptions of both modern science and modern economics. It is one of its primary proponents and replicators. Even our most radical professors - our postmodernists - really want all the comforts of modern life, just with more material equality. When a worker bees at a university want to prove that they has conservatives in its midst, they never fail to point to free market faculty in the Economics department.

I do indeed raise these sorts of topics in my classes. It comes as big news to students. They encounter some considerations that haven't ever been raised before. I taught a seminar this past semester which was a version of this blawg - contemporary challenges that do not lend themselves to our usual way of thinking about politics, along with healthy doses of Tocqueville and Aristotle.

All of our claims to teaching "critical thinking" notwithstanding, there is a stunning orthodoxy in our universities today. It is an institution largely designed to keep out people who question that orthodoxy, but every once in awhile they make a mistake.