An article sent by Chuckles goes into the difference between an academic and an intellectual and there are many good quotes in there – here’s one:
If the academic tills one field and the intellectual is a hunter pursuing prey across many fields, which one is unemployed?
The second difference between an academic and an intellectual is the familiar difference between a specialist and a generalist, the academic being the specialist and the intellectual the generalist.
“If you happen to write well,” Gustave Flaubert once wrote, “you are accused of lacking ideas.”
All good stuff. The author of the piece is making the case for a liberal arts, i.e. generalist, education and this becomes the more compelling the earlier in education you go, e.g. in primary [elementary] school.
This is an interesting article for Chuckles to send as he is an engineer, [computer engineer at this point] and has an engineer’s approach to things. As you’d probably gather, I’m quite partial to the approach and my friends tend to be engineers and tradesmen rather than academics – in fact I’m generally shunned by the latter for not using their lexicon, not trying to bamboozle with big words.
In this discussion of the liberal arts, it’s hard to go past a very different field – that of James Bond. Bond has to be from competent to good in a variety of fields, he is the decathlete of the spy world. Whilst a specialist in the pole vault is a sight to behold and the decathlete does not excite to quite the same extent in any one discipline, which would you prefer on a team when it was unknown what dangers lay ahead?
Sorry to bring the football back into it but one of the key reasons behind our team’s success over seven years has been that everyone has to be able to play in a variety of positions and can be swung up forward or down back as necessary – one player can cover for another at a pinch, kick left and right footed and so on.
This post is not arguing against the specialist and in post-grad work, the specialist is needed. I’d not like a physician who was a GP cutting into me, however good he might be at it. Yet I’d want him there on the panel discussing my terminal and difficult case. On a voyage to the islands, I’d like the GP on board please.
The liberal arts are not there now for a reason and that reason comes back to the Schiller Institute article on the New Dark Ages, so often quoted by your humble blogger:
The liberal arts are the enemy of the totalitarian, the yahoo, the brutalized new world, steeped in ugliness. That a man who is “Senior Advisor to the President at the J. Paul Getty Trust and author of God: A Biography” can come out in support of a field which questions, pursues truth as its prey across fields and the like is testament to the perceived need to get back to some form of fine education for our upcoming youth.
Seems to me there’s a case for specializing later, as used to happen – apprenticeships etc. but this is much later. Before that, a well grounded general education in everything, even those things you don’t perceive as useful makes a better rounded person, more capable of coping and having a better perspepctive on the world.
Can’t help coming back to the 19th century workingmen’s clubs and the cultural classes they attended in the evenings [women welcome too today, trying to improve themselves - that sort of thing.]