Monday, September 22, 2008

Response to a friend's blog.

From a friend's blog (password protected for some strange reason). This is my response to his post.
WHat I think they (want to) believe is the following: studying literature/the arts/philosophy makes you a better person. This is total baloney -see the some of the highly educated and tasteful SS
One could argue a counter-point by saying that the “highly educated and tasteful SS” were in charge of the “highly uneducated and tasteless SS”. So… education makes one a superior being…? No, but it is the basis (unfounded in objective characterizations) for Western higher education along both the British and German models, which were highly influential in the formation of U.S. education through the 18th and 19th centuries. It is something that I also rail against when I am faced with ivory-tower intellectuals that tell me with a straight face that humans are “more evolved” than other animals, or that other animals “spontaneously appear” in places they weren’t before. AND THEY GET AWAY WITH IT! (I won't get into why these ideas are a patently false representation of the world, but "bleaugh!")

Of course, many people in academia in the United States see many benefits of having a liberal arts education. However, being within a liberal arts education system means that you might be biased in your judgments of it (conflicts of interest, anyone?). I personally feel that - although there are possible personal benefits gained from having students learn a variety of subjects - not everyone wants to be a renaissance-man. I have had many seniors in a freshman class because they waited until the absolute last minute to fulfill their distribution requirements. On yet another hand (I'm like Kali here), if universities in the US wanted to ensure their students were well-rounded, why not require them to take their distributions prior to becoming an "upperclassman". It is my experience that integration of information happens best when the information is present prior to integration. Therefore, if students were expected to take those courses that will make them a well-rounded student prior to traveling down the road of specialization (which is - in itself - a paradox of the US system of higher ed) that is what should (imho) be the distinction of being an "upperclassman", they will be in a position from which they can ruminate upon their prior knowledge sources and critically think (or not) about how different epistemologies inform the different points-of-view the student will inevitably come across in their future studies.

(On a tangential note, I think that it’s great that we use the ‘murican way of spelling when talking about how something is “full of baloney”. Saying that something full of crap is “full of bologna” would just be plain weird.)
There’s a deeper point there too: the current study of literature has nothing to do with the current practice of medicine.
I would argue that it never really did before, either. Oh, wait. That’s your entry's point. My bad
Why should I even think it possible to assign a compassionate meaning to a text written by the guy who also penned (or parroted rather) Bagatelles, and whose life story is less than glorious in many aspects? What makes those med schools admissions committees people think that reading literature written by a brigand could make me any more of a good person?
First of all, that statement made me LOL. Who thought that a metacritique of literature would do that to me on a Monday morning? (However, that should read: “…less-than-glorious…” The “Napoleogrammaniac” strikes again; yes, I made that word up for the use against someone who needs the application of a French version of "grammar Nazi", and yes you can use it too!)
they don’t give a toss about mentioning medicine in their literary work, because that’s not the point. … As I’ve maintained throughout my research in the humanities, literature truly has nothing to do with the world.
For more of this check out these sites: Uncertain Principles, Adventures in Ethics, Gene Expression. They are written by scientists who have come across similar POVs, and discuss them from their own side. (Uncertain Principles was that which started the ball rolling in the discussion, but the other two expand on it nicely.)
I’m writing this as an attempt to use a much-taunted method of getting past ‘writer’s block’, the latter being defined as the inability to write what you’re supposed (that is: expected) to. I’m afraid it’s not working very well.
First of all, did you mean “taunted” as in “to make fun of in a manner of teasing” or “touted” as in “to try and sell-off, usually used by itself to describe a person from the 19th century and before, who was in charge of selling off the services of prostitutes and child laborers – of course I could be stretching this definition a bit). Secondly, if you want to check out a very accurate scientific, peer-reviewed paper on the subject of writer’s block, then check out this article (don’t worry, it’s very short and to-the-point). I'm thinking of doing a follow-up study myself...

1 comment:

Fran├žois said...

First of all: thanks for being such a better and faster reader/responder than I am (from my to-do list: "Read and comment umlud's blog." Secondly, thanks for being much less circumvolved and generally a much better thinker than I am.
Thirdly, on a few specific points:
"No, but it is the basis (unfounded in objective characterizations) for Western higher education along both the British and German models... " Yes, wasn't it in part Daniel Goldhagen's point? (not exactly so, I'm getting sloppier and sloppier those days)
" I have had many seniors in a freshman class because they waited until the absolute last minute to fulfill their distribution requirements. " -exact same experience here, wholeheartedly agree with all your comments.
"I would argue that it never really did before, either. Oh, wait. That’s your entry's point." -yes, although my reserve is due to the fact that pre-mid- to late-20th century, the absence of useful treatments for most illnesses/injuries (and/or of preventative means) meant that "the arts" could have had a more important place in medicine as comfort-bringers (can't think of the appropriate word -it's only 11.44am, and I'm still a humanities student, that's early morning for me). As I think I wrote in my post, those days I don't mind the use of arts for comfort, but not without first giving codeine (semi-figure of speech here).
"(However, that should read: “…less-than-glorious…” " -don't be unfair here, there was a disclaimer in the update email: ""Zero draft" as characterized by... whatever his name was. I.e.: there might be some good ideas in a sea of incoherence and bad syntax (the computer took care of the spelling)."
"did you mean “taunted” " -edited
"then check out this article" -on it right now... oh, wait, how is that increasing my productivity???
Thanks again for your thoughtful and thought-provoking response and grammer Nasism.