The proprietress of the always informative The Do-Tique recently sent me an article published in The Chronicle of Higher Education, and it was so enjoyable that I’d like to share it here. The article proposes that a renewal of higher education in our culture might result from going back — way, way back — to an educational model based on one of the most enduring institutions in our history: the monastery.
One could imagine that in the Middle Ages, choosing a monastery might have been like selecting among liberal-arts colleges, each with a different variation of mission and expression. But the major purpose, in every case, was to turn away from the vices and distractions of the world toward a higher life—often a deeply intellectual one—nurtured by the work of one’s hands.
It’s a quixotic argument, of course, but winsomely written and a pleasure to read. It is just the sort of thing to put stars in my eyes.
(Parenthetically, it occurs to me that one could write a comic novel — a warmly satiric one — based around just this idea. Naturally, the satire would be directed at our established universities, not the other way around.)
For all that a proposal like this runs slam up against every tendency of our Zeitgeist, it is worth pointing out (as a few comments on the original article do) that there are several academic institutions in North America that adopt certain of the features the article advocates. Comment #29 praises Thomas Aquinas College, for instance, in California, about which I have heard good things before.