I’ve been reading an article (BBC News – A Point of View: Justifying culture) by Alain de Botton about the failure of academics in the humanities to make their teaching relevant to people’s needs.
He argues that the original intention of universities was not to make skillful lawyers, physicians or engineers, but to make “capable and cultivated human beings”. But nowadays, universities seem to be in the business of turning out a lot of tightly focused professionals and a few “culturally well-informed, but ethically confused arts graduates aptly panicked about how they might remuneratively occupy the rest of their lives.” He argues that this failure of the humanities to be relevant is one of the reasons why they are being cut by the current government.
He makes some suggestions about how things ought to be: “There should be classes in, among other topics, being alone, reconsidering work, improving relationships with children, reconnecting with nature and facing illness. A university alive to the true responsibilities of cultural artefacts within a secular age would establish a Department for Relationships, an Institute of Dying and a Centre for Self-Knowledge”
I think it’s quite an interesting idea. A lot of teaching about spirituality and ‘life skills’ now fall into a gap between traditional religion (rejected by many) and professional education (subservient to economic necessity).
Why not start a druid university? I’d quite like to teach a course in reconnecting with nature!