The End of the University by Roger Scruton | Articles | First Things
Spring scenes on West Campus, Duke University. Students on the Academic Quad with Perkins Library in background.
Philosopher Roger Scruton shares some typically penetrating and enlightening, but rather sobering, thoughts on the role of the university, and how modern universities are abandoning this vital function. Inter alia:
Universities exist to provide students with the knowledge, skills, and culture that will prepare them for life, while enhancing the intellectual capital upon which we all depend. Evidently the two purposes are distinct.
One concerns the growth of the individual, the other our shared need for knowledge. But they are also intertwined, so that damage to the one purpose is damage to the other. That is what we are now seeing, as our universities increasingly turn against the culture that created them, withholding it from the young.
The years spent at university belong with the rites of initiation studied by the Victorian anthropologists, in which those born into the tribe assume the burden of perpetuating it. If we lose sight of this, it seems to me, then we are in danger of detaching the university from its social and moral purpose, which is that of handing on both a store of knowledge and the culture that makes sense of it.
Sadly, I fear that we are more than "in danger" of detaching the university from its social and moral purpose. I think this has already happened, and the rift is widening! Nonetheless, this is definitely worth a read, as is just about everything written by Scruton.