IN DEFENSE OF THE LIBERAL ARTS

by michael on December 17, 2010

For several reasons I had begun reading Janie Johnson’s new book, Don’t Take My Lemonade Stand. One reason is that I met her October 27 at the Sean Hannity studio, Fox TV, and spoke briefly with her just before she participated on Hannity’s panel that evening. She gave me a copy of her book and I gave her a copy of mine. It just seemed neighborly to read her book.

A statement on the cover of her book was another reason that compelled me to read it. Inside a patch of bright orange were the words “Teach your kids commonsense conservative values.” I was curious.

I had just spent the better part of nearly three years writing my book on teaching values to children, mine included, but I did not consider those values to be inherently or uniquely ‘conservative.’ In fact, I didn’t give much thought at all to cataloging the values, whether liberal or conservative, left or right, progressive or regressive.

Yet, based on our conversation and the segments of her book that I read, I conclude that Johnson is a thoughtful and measured individual. Thus, my mind traveled in previously unintended directions like a meandering trout stream as I contemplated writing a blog about her book within the next few days.

Moments ago I found this article by Victor Davis Hanson, In Defense of the Liberal Arts, http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/print/255390. I have been reading Hanson’s work for several years. I have read dozens of his articles and two of his books. See his website: http://www.victorhanson.com/ which offers a collection of his vast work.

Hanson is, in my opinion, a national treasure. I met him one evening at the University of Denver years ago when he gave a lecture on immigration. He is an impressive man.

In Defense of the Liberal Arts makes arguments that had begun to germinate in my less rigorous and less informed mind as I study Johnson’s book. In a broad sense, Hanson argues for the merits of a classic liberal education, which, of necessity, includes teaching liberal values, as least as those values were once understood. I wonder if ground is unnecessarily given up or unduly muddied when values are referred to as conservative or as, well, non-conservative, especially those values that should be applied when raising children.

I share some of Hanson’s paragraphs. The article merits being read in its entirety. Hanson writes, in part:

“But the liberal arts train students to write, think, and argue inductively, while drawing upon evidence from a shared body of knowledge. Without that foundation, it is harder to make — or demand from others — logical, informed decisions about managing our supercharged society as it speeds on by.”

“And without citizens broadly informed by the humanities, we descend into a pyramidal society. A tiny technocratic elite on top crafts everything from cell phones and search engines to foreign policy and economic strategy. A growing mass below has neither understanding of the present complexity nor the basic skills to question what they are told.”

“Life is not just acquisition and consumption. Engaging English prose uplifts the spirit in a way Twittering cannot. The anti-Christ video shown by the Smithsonian at the National Portrait Gallery will fade when the Delphic Charioteer or Michelangelo’s David does not. Appreciation of the history of great art and music fortifies the soul, and recognizes beauty that does not fade with the passing fad.”

In the next few days I will write about Johnson’s Don’t Take My Lemonade Stand. I do not accept that teaching a child to return a stolen wallet or not making racial epithets or not bullying—which should be taught—are inherently conservative values and are so to the exclusion of another philosophic model.

In any event, I anticipate that Johnson’s larger point is wholly valid: that these inherently moral values should be taught. Teach the values; worry about the labels later. That’s what I will ponder within the next several days.
More later

Share Button

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: