Justin Smith on the State of Humanities.


I liked this (especially the opening sequence about the symphony experience):

There is, at this point, nothing we in the humanities can ask students to do that is analogous to what must be asked of anyone who hopes to follow in the footsteps of Anne-Sophie Mutter. We cannot say to students: “Welcome. We are here to rewire your neurons. We are here to completely transform you from the inside so that everything you do with your body (and mind, but that’s an afterthought), every sensation and minute experience you have of your own capacities, will be entirely foreign from what you now know.” Increasingly, in fact, universities are clamoring to assure students that no such transformation will take place. They promise that they will complement the students’ already-existing strong points, fit themselves into the students’ busy schedules, speak to what the students already know, and so on. Many universities have by now practically adopted as their slogan: Come join us! No transformation required.

2 thoughts on “Justin Smith on the State of Humanities.

  1. ehh. I get the sentiment, but she seems a little overly-dramatic and cheesey for my taste.

    “every sensation and minute experience you have of your own capacities, will be entirely foreign from what you now know.”

    that’s overstating it. the whole college transformation cliche is well…a cliche. I’m a student now and I view my education as a way for me to understand things in new contexts and notice and be aware of social, political, economic, philsophical, etc theories and events that I would not otherwise come across. Through this process my neurons have been rewired a little – for example, I try to view events in their larger historical contexts rather than just focusing on the immediacy of the event itself.

    No college claims to transform you completely, and if they do, frankly I wouldn’t want to go there.

  2. The rewiring pop myth aside ( it’s hardly based on neurological facts ) I would also be interested in the distinctive bodily expression or physical appearance of humanists. Maybe talking intellectually must suffice for the moment?

    The other question I’d like to ask: how are techies different in this respect?

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