Why Teach?: In Defense of a Real Education

Why Teach?: In Defense of a Real Education

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by Mark Edmundson
     
 

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Mark Edmundson's essays reclaim college not as the province of high-priced tuition, career training, and interactive online courses, but as the place where serious people go to broaden their minds and learn to live the rest of their lives.

A renowned professor of English at the University of Virginia, Edmundson has felt firsthand the pressure on colleges to

Overview

Mark Edmundson's essays reclaim college not as the province of high-priced tuition, career training, and interactive online courses, but as the place where serious people go to broaden their minds and learn to live the rest of their lives.

A renowned professor of English at the University of Virginia, Edmundson has felt firsthand the pressure on colleges to churn out a productive, high-caliber workforce for the future. Yet in these essays, many of which have run in places such as Harper's and the New York Times, he reminds us that there is more to education than greater productivity. With prose exacting yet expansive, tough-minded yet optimistic, Edmundson argues forcefully that the liberal arts are more important today than ever, and a necessary remedy for our troubled times. Why Teach? is brimming with the wisdom and inspiration that make learning possible.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Readers familiar with the work of author and critic Edmundson (English, Univ. of Virginia; Why Read?; Literature Against Philosophy, Plato to Derrida) will recognize his passionate regard for the liberal arts in this collection of selected essays, many previously published in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Harper's, and the New York Times. Directed at students, parents, and faculty, the essays are imbued with Edmundson's interest in how higher education engages students through their understanding of certain texts so they find their passion and pursue their potential. He warns against the loss of an education of both "heart and mind" and illuminates the tacit and difficult-to-quantify effects of a liberal arts education. VERDICT Edmundson's accessible prose will motivate both students and teachers. Highly recommended for all involved in higher education; an enjoyable and inspiring read.—Jane Scott, George Fox Univ. Lib., Newberg, OR
The New York Times - Michael S. Roth
Mr. Edmundson loves to teach, but he hates the conditions under which much teaching takes place today…These conditions—the consumer mentality of students and their families, the efforts of administrators to provide a full spa experience and the rush of faculty to escape from the classroom into esoteric research—make real teachers an endangered species in the academic ecosystem. In this context, Mr. Edmundson reminds us of the power strong teachers have to make students rethink who they are and whom they might become. This is what a real education is all about…Mr. Edmundson's critique is both personal and idealistic, drawing on his deep belief in the democratic mission of liberal education and on his practical experience as a teacher…He's hard on both [students and teachers], but underneath the curmudgeonly rhetoric he is desperate to remind them of why real learning and teaching aren't so much luxuries as necessities.
Publishers Weekly
As he headed to college, Edmundson (Why Read?) told his father that he might pursue a prelaw track. Though he wasn’t sure he wanted to be a lawyer, he figured that lawyers made decent money. His father, he says, “detonated”: “He told me that I was going to college only once, and that while I was there I had better study what I wanted,” which was literature. In this collection of 16 essays, some of which have appeared in Harper’s and the New York Times, University of Virginia English professor Edmundson explores how higher education has devolved into a place where “preprofessionalism is the order of the day”; where the study of literature “has become arid and abstract”; and where universities behave like corporations, teachers like service providers, and students like customers. He offers, at turns, a meditation, a jeremiad, some musings, and some possible solutions. The questions (what to teach? what to study?) find answers in the values Edmundson discovers in becoming an English major: “Love for language, hunger for life, openness and a quest for truth or truths.” Addressing teachers, students, and parents, Edmundson defends the intellectual and spiritual value, even the usefulness, of the “scholarly enclave” and “seeking knowledge so as to make the lives of other human beings better.” (Aug.)
From the Publisher

“Mark Edmundson's lively account of the way we educate now offers enjoyment and enlightenment.” —Harold Bloom

“A heartfelt, beautifully written, profound, and often hilarious appeal to rage against the machinery of modern education.” —Booklist (starred review)

“Edmundson's accessible prose will motivate both students and teachers. Highly recommended for all involved in higher education; an enjoyable and inspiring read.” —Library Journal

“[A] deeply felt collection of explorations and reflections on an education in the liberal arts.” —Kirkus Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Edmundson (English/Univ. of Virginia; The Fine Wisdom and Perfect Teachings of the Kings of Rock and Roll, 2010, etc.) dispels any ambiguity about his position on his subject with the subtitle--"In Defense of a Real Education"--of this deeply felt collection of explorations and reflections on an education in the liberal arts. The author examines the slow transformation of universities and colleges from being driven by intellectual and cultural betterment to institutions modeled on business, with a complex, and not always successful, emphasis on attracting students and making a profit. Success, Edmundson writes, isn't as clear-cut as the bottom line or the percentage increase in applications or even in the rigor of the education being offered. Our culture rewards the system in which the professors tend to their academic business, the students check off the various boxes, and the school support staff build newer, better amenities to ensure that the students feel they are getting the best of the best. Edmundson argues that students have an immeasurably priceless opportunity to take the beliefs that have been instilled in them throughout childhood and put them under a microscope. They have the chance to ensure that they aren't going to simply fit in, as a square peg, to the first matching hole that comes along. "Education is about finding out what form of work for you is close to being play," writes the author--not that it should be simple and without challenge but that doing what you love (and discovering what that might be) is more important than "advancing in the direction of someone else's dreams" and pursuing education as a means to buying your way into what you're acculturated to think equals happiness and success. Edmundson may have strong words about culture, education and the common reader's quest to be entertained above all else, but he provides a bracing tonic against the decline of higher education.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781620401088
Publisher:
Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
08/20/2013
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
288
Sales rank:
1,231,707
File size:
2 MB

Meet the Author

Mark Edmundson teaches at the University of Virginia, where he is University Professor. A prizewinning scholar, he is also the author of Why Read?, Teacher, The Death of Sigmund Freud, and The Fine Wisdom and Perfect Teachings of the Kings of Rock and Roll. His writing has appeared in such publications as the New Republic, the New York Times Magazine, the Nation, and Harper's. He lives in Batesville, Virginia, with his wife, the writer Elizabeth Denton.


Mark Edmundson teaches at the University of Virginia, where he is university professor. A prizewinning scholar, he is also the author of Why Teach?, Why Read?, Teacher, The Death of Sigmund Freud, and The Fine Wisdom and Perfect Teachings of the Kings of Rock and Roll. His writing has appeared in such publications as the New Republic,the New York Times Magazine, the Chronicle of Higher Education, the Nation, the American Scholar, Raritan, andHarper's. He lives in Batesville, Virginia.

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Why Teach?: In Defense of a Real Education 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
MichaelTheAuthorMG More than 1 year ago
Marc Edmundson's Why Teach? is an impassioned defense of the spiritual values ("soulmaking") of immersion in literature, and it rewards the educated reader with many literary allusions and echoes of great writers. But it lacks an index to help readers relocate references to quoted authors, and, surprisingly for a tenured professor of English literature, it contains many errors of writing and proofreading, sometimes two in the same paragraph. Examples: "assent" for "ascent"; "picked" for "picket"; the verb "submit" for "subordinate"; the redundancy of "a mutual friend of both of them"; "chrons" for "chronos"; numerous split infinitives. And then there is the unnecessary resort to vernacular idioms: e.g., "piss off" for "annoy." Elegance would seem a far preferable accompaniment to the author's eloquence.