Monday, August 21, 2006
Specialization breeds an inevitable individualism and elevates narrow expertise over breadth of learning. Clearly a university cannot do without rigorous, specialized knowledge in its faculty. The challenge Mr. Lewis and others pose is whether universities can create incentives to balance focus with breadth.
This would entail another sense of liberalism. Such a liberality or generosity of spirit would revive a proper appreciation of amateurism � not in the sense of an absence of serious training but in the etymological meaning of the word "amateur," from the French for "lover."
In an academic context, an amateur would be one who has a passionate enthusiasm for knowledge, an infectious joy at human inquiry itself and a commitment to transforming students from dependent absorbers of information into colleagues in a shared pursuit of knowledge. This spirit of wonder is the most compelling embodiment of Newman's claim that knowledge is an end in itself. Such a spirit knows no bounds � it can be equally present in an English poetry class, a chemistry lab, a music tutorial or a philosophy seminar.
As Jeffrey Hart said, "Life consists of more, thank God, than politics." Or sex, for that matter. Find those schools that agree.