Arcadia

Via the National Review I came across John E. Seery’s lament for the small liberal arts college, strangled at the hands of administrators gone wild.

I commented:

The odd thing is that a good undergraduate Liberal Arts college needs a few classrooms, a few seminar rooms, a small library with a serious affiliation to a big library, some professors and an administration to take the fees and pay the people. (Yes, if it is residential, there is all that stuff but there are many people who have run Holiday Inns.)

I am astonished that American parents are willing to fork over 60K/a for a quasi-university education.

The temptation to create a “graduate college” on the lines above somewhere fairly remote and populate it with profs emeritus and brilliant buggers who have had it with being sessionals is huge. Two years, 10K a year, seminars of twenty in Y1, 7 in Y2 to give you the education you didn’t get while you were doing diversity training and taking “Studies”. Small, residential, maybe 500 20-25 year olds. Act up and you get kicked, be there to learn or leave. No social rules – you’re adults, deal with it.

Oh, and mandatory Church on Sunday (and I don’t care if you are Jewish or Muslim or what have you) – it is entirely cultural. Believe whatever you want but learn the liturgy, the Hymnal and the Book of Common Prayer because that is the cadence of Western Civilization – English division.

Teach the students to think, to write and to argue. Read chunks of the Western Canon, also read smart people like Orwell and Oakeshott. First year – rather like law school – everything is required. Second year an elective and a directed study towards a required forty page thesis.

Three grades – fail (you have to do it again until) pass and then, because excellence needs be recognized, distinguished. Distinguished would be very tough to get and papers which hit that standard would be published, on paper, every year.

The President of this Arcadia would be chosen for his or her grumpiness when confronting academic lassitude and capacity at the BBQ for the occasional “feast”. (Pace Frank Iacobucci.)

Admission would be strictly by merit but merit would be a very elastic concept. Write one really interesting undergraduate paper, you’re in, build a community organization from scratch, you’re in, play bassoon in a world-class orchestra, you’re in, build an app that’s on my phone, you’re in. But it is a liberal arts college so STEM people, valuable as they are, business undergrads and “studies” people are going to be faced with a fairly high bar.

Finally, the “interview” would be mandatory and last for a residential week. Arrive before Church on Sunday, leave after Church the Sunday after. Seminars, cocktail parties, a President’s BBQ, perhaps a paper presentation: gruelling does not begin to describe it because my graduate college requires a habit of mind, an ability to disagree without being disagreeable, the social is just as important as the academic.

If you get in, two years later, you will be better educated and, more importantly, a better thinker, more deeply informed. A much better writer and, I suspect, a more deeply understanding person.

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