Sex and Other

Drugs and
Rock 'n' Roll

Media and

Society (and

Politics and Other


Casual Fridays

Rantings and

In and Out:
Sex Advice from our Staff Dominatrix

Employee of the



Who We Are

Write for Us!

Invest in Anti-

Play Our Theme Song
by Simon Inns
(MP3 format; 1.5 MB download)

Donate to the Cause!

Saving Higher Education


The Last Professor


by Ken Mondschein



As a Ph.D candidate finishing his dissertation in the "useless" subject of medieval history at Fordham University (whose press published Professor Donoghue’s book), I feel the need to offer a rebuttal to Stanley Fish's nihilistic little plug of The Last Professor.

To begin with, let me relate a story that a former professor of mine, Dan Smail (now at Harvard) told our first-year seminar. It seems that a government auditor visited the department of a UK colleague of his, asking just what use a degree in history might be. The colleague stammered out something about the broad applicability of a liberal arts degree and learning how to think, but Dan had a better answer: Market forces. The fact is that people want to know about medieval history, Greek philosophy, Victorian poets, classical music, and modern art. Classes on medieval history are always full. We can twist the logic of the marketplace, aikido-like, back upon those who most insist on its strength. There is consumer demand for 1066 and all that.

Furthermore, higher education has always had an element of social climbing to it - in the Middle Ages, it was church benefices that were at stake, not higher income, but the principle was the same. If you want to fit in with the society of your betters, you have to become acculturated to their habitus—not just knowing that Bach was a Baroque composer and Beethoven was a Romantic, but intangible modes of thinking and reasoning that show membership in a certain social class and entitle one to the benefits thereof. This is what a live-and-in-person college education provides, and what the University of Phoenix can never provide. I find the notion that the "education" in any discipline provided by such an institution is the equivalent of a flesh-and-blood college to be laughable.

If one wants a college education worth something, one should follow the lead of the best. Look not to the merchants shilling "education" to the masses hoping to make an extra $10,000 per year from an associate’s degree, but to the leaders—the Harvards, U of Chicagos, Stanfords, Amhersts, Williams, Fordhams, Notre Dames, Grinnells, and Oberlins. These are schools where intellectual curiosity and a broad range of experience are rewarded, even required. For a counterexample, look at Bennington College, where Elizabeth Coleman’s tenure has been a disaster for the school’s reputation and quality.

There are also those who do not hold with the prevailing logic. As a secular Jew, I can only say thank God for the Church. So long as there are Catholic universities, there will be institutions that value knowledge and a liberal education for knowledge’s sake. A world in which something’s value is measured in dollars and cents is not one in which I care to live. We might as well do away with the ballet and the opera, sell the Rodins at the Met for scrap, and jackhammer the façades off historic buildings so they can be demolished to make way for condos.

Finally, may I be so bold to suggest that if Wall Street had been run by people with broad humanistic educations, rather than short-sighted mouth-breathing yobs obsessed with American football, strip clubs, and the almighty dollar, than the current economic meltdown might never have occurred?


Posted January 20, 2009 4:14 PM






Copyright 2001-2010
Powered by
Movable Type 3.33
Logo design by Molitorious