09 September 2006

The Business of Reading Great Literature

The Business of Reading Great Literature: Why We Should Teach Literature to Business Students and Why That Matters to Classical Christian Schools (Now that’s a title and a half!)

The next session at CiRCE was on Friday morning. Vigen Gurioan was insightful in his analysis of the result of combining business schools and liberal arts schools. First he mentioned a few of his published works: Inheriting Paradise: Meditations on Gardening (sounds great to me!), Rallying the Really Human Things (I bought this that afternoon, but haven’t read any of it yet.), and The Fragrance of God. Vigen is a tenured professor at Loyola.

American society is business-oriented. We receive many material comforts from this, but we also lament the hedonism that is such a temptation in our culture. Whatever our response, we must acknowledge that the American economy is here to stay.

During the 20th century, agricultural colleges became business schools or expanded to incorporate business schools.

There is definitely a need for business training, but this training contains serious limitations, including that business training undercuts the ethos of liberal learning. Schools stand or fall on the way they handle the liberal arts and sciences, defined as the acquisition of accumulated wisdom of the ages, an investigation into the very nature of things, truth and error, goodness and beauty.

The study of literature contributes to the humanization of life. Literature is a metonym (from metonymy: a figure of speech in which one word or phrase is substituted for another with which it is closely associated) for liberal learning.

The adding of business schools to liberal arts schools undermined their very understanding of education. Business schools are simply higher vocational training.

Literature makes better and more interesting human beings. (Vigen then quoted someone, but I’m not sure I got the quote right and don’t know who originally said it, “Literature doesn’t save, but it enlarges the soul to be saved.” Sound familiar? Anyone out there with one of the sets of CD’s from the conference who could verify this for me?)

The novel form is truer to life than a textbook. “Loss of the University” is an essay by Wendell Berry that Vigen recommended. “Education is essentially for free men. Vocational training is for slaves.” ~CS Lewis

We need both education and training. Those with only vocational training are the mules of the marketplace. They are producers and consumers with a yoke on their minds.

There’s a difference between character development in the context of literature and academic training in the context of a class in ethics. We must develop the human being, then train him for the workplace, through apprenticeship.

He recommended The Call of Stories: Teaching and the Moral Imagination, by Robert Coles.

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