The University For?: Provocative Speakers Will Discuss Major Challenges
Confronting Higher Education
9, 2000 -- Is the main purpose of a college education
to prepare students to achieve economic success? Is "the life
of the mind" increasingly irrelevant? Have some professors
so refined their scholarly interests that they cant help solve
pressing issues facing American society? Do universities have a
of the countrys foremost thinkers on higher educations
role today, not all of them likely to be in agreement with each
other, will address such questions at the University of Virginia
this spring in an intensive, three-part public conference titled
"Whats the University For?" Speakers, from a wide
range of disciplines and perspectives, include Mark Edmundson, T.J.
Jackson Lears, Gerald Graff, Russell Jacoby, George Marsden, Julie
A. Reuben and Richard Rorty.
colloquium series, sponsored by the Institute for Advanced Studies
in Culture, on March 2, March 30 and April 13,
is intended to shed light on the growing challenges facing higher
education in a rapidly changing culture often driven by consumerism,
technology and a global socioeconomic scramble. Each session will
feature talks, panel discussions and audience participation, followed
by a reception.
the beginning of a new millennium, the American university is puzzled
at and troubled by its current situation, said Charles Mathewes,
assistant professor of religious studies and a conference organizer.
"It has reached a level of material success, wealth and power
that is unrivalled in its history. Yet its very accomplishments
feed larger cultural anxieties about the universitys place
and purposes in society as a whole."
an era that demands information, entertainment and career preparation,
"it is unclear just what an education is meant to do for its
recipient," added Jennifer Geddes, an institute fellow and
editor of its journal, The Hedgehog Review, which will publish the
proceedings of the conference. A key question for many is what the
content of a university education should be.
Colloquium One, "The Culture of the University," March
2 in the Dome Room of the Rotunda, Mark Edmundson, professor
of English at U.Va., and Jackson Lears, professor of history
at Rutgers University, will look at how changes in the broader culture
have affected the culture of the university and what it means that
a university education has become more integral to success in our
society than ever before. Edmundson, a contributing editor of Harpers
magazine, has written widely on education issues, including a controversial
article in which he described university culture as ever more devoted
to consumption and entertainment. Lears has written several books
on the changes that have taken place in American culture and intellectual
life over the last century, including "The Culture of Consumption:
Critical Essays in American History."
Two, "The University and Public Intellectuals," March
30 in Newcomb Halls South Meeting Room, will be led by
Gerald Graff, humanities scholar and dean at the University
of Illinois-Chicago and Russell Jacoby, professor of history
at UCLA, They will examine the responsibilities of intellectuals
and whether modern university life has become so narrowly bureaucratized
and specialized that some scholars are hindered from playing a fuller
role in society. Graff, author of "Beyond the Culture Wars,"
has suggested that the way to move beyond academic stalemates, such
as debates over what should be taught, is to "teach the conflicts"
themselves and make problems part of their own solutions. Jacoby,
author of "The Last Intellectuals," will talk about possibilities
for creating a true intellectual community in todays university.
Three, "The Moral Purposes of the University," April 13
in Newcomb Halls South Meeting Room, will feature George
Marsden, professor of history at Notre Dame; Julie A. Reuben,
professor of education at Harvard, and Richard Rorty, professor
emeritus at U.Va., now at Stanford, who is one of the countrys
most influential philosophers.
will lead discussions about the purposes of education and whether
the university has or needs a shared moral commitment such as it
originally had. Marsden, in such books as "The Soul of the
American University," has urged universities to remember their
original religious, intellectual and moral missions to seek truth
through inquiry. Rorty argues against the attempt to return to founding
principles. Reuben, author of "The Making of the Modern University,"
is an authority on what has led to todays dilemmas.
conference is part of an annual colloquium series on a key issue
sponsored by the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, directed
by sociology and religion professor James Davison Hunter. Papers
from conference participants will be published in the Fall issue
of The Hedgehog Review. (For more information on the journal visit
its website: www.virginia.edu/iasc/publications.html#hedgehog)
additional information contact the Institute for Advanced Studies
in Culture at (804) 924-7705.
Charles Mathewes may be reached at (804) 924-6708 and Jennifer Geddes
may be reached at (804) 924-7705.
Bob Brickhouse, (804) 924-6856
the University For?
Culture of the University March 2, 2000
Room, The Rotunda 1-6 p.m.
Edmundson (English, U.Va.)
Jackson Lears (History, Rutgers)
& Public Intellectuals March 30, 2000
Meeting Room, Newcomb Hall 1:15 -6 p.m.
Graff (Dean, U. of Illinois at Chicago)
Jacoby (History, UCLA)
Moral Purposes of the University April 13, 2000
Meeting Room, Newcomb Hall 1-6 p.m.
Marsden (History, Notre Dame)
A. Reuben (Education, Harvard)
Rorty (Comparative Literature, Stanford)