Liberal arts and inevitable maternal mailing

When the human genome scientists find the gene causing mothers to mail newspaper clippings to their grown children, we can set up a foundation to fund research for a cure. I'm stuffing a fat envelope for my eldest who is gainfully employed in the realm of higher education administration at a nameless respected institution in the breadbasket of the United States. Today's Dallas Morning News has two stories about students without soul and institutions without education. The first essay by Thomas Hibbs, philosopher and dean of the Honors College at Baylor University begins:

You are an Athenian, a citizen of the greatest city with the greatest reputation for both wisdom and power; are you not ashamed of your eagerness to possess as much wealth, reputation, and honors as possible, while you do not care nor give thought to wisdom or truth, or the best possible state of your soul? – Plato, Apology

The second DMN story considers the value of the classic liberal education.

Let me put it like this: I have two large books on my desk. One is The Complete Works of Shakespeare; the other is a phone book. One is a great work of literature; the other mere data. They differ greatly, despite their physical similarities.

Will I regret reading Shakespeare? Yes, if a broken pipe is flooding my basement. I might want to hold off on Hamlet and find a plumber instead. But if I want to know what it means to be human, if I want to open my heart and mind to the best that has been imagined and written, if I think that doing so is necessary to my soul – then the Shakespeare is incalculably more valuable.

Included in the first story was a reference to a book by psychologist Madeline Levine, Ph.D., The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage Are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids. I was pleased to find an online interview with Madeline Levine at Eye On Books. It was ten minutes well spent. A long excerpt from the book is available online, too. I'm intrigued enough to track down Levine's book.

Our society across all economic levels must find ways to raise children to be curious and creative, to have empathy, to be self-motivated, self-controlled, and self-sufficient. It is good to live in a country where any child can grow up to be President. I would feel better if every child grew up with some inkling into the insights of a philosopher/king.

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