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Thursday, August 31, 2023

An Apt and Half-True Statement

In one of those rare instances in which the letters section of the New York Review of Books generates light and not just heat, this letters exchange concerning naming and unnaming at universities (which features an ingenious and suspiciously convenient mechanism for preserving Stanford University's name while renaming its constituent parts) offers a lovely quote about the purpose of the university: "The perennial chance to rethink things embodied by the next generation is, after all, the crucial feature of universities."

Nice. But surely and rather precisely incomplete. The perennial duty to understand and pass along things embodied by past generations is an equally crucial feature of universities, is it not? Especially, but far from exclusively, in their teaching role?

It strikes me as both common and deeply unfortunate that in discussing universities and their role, and scholarship and its role, half the politically engaged commentariat tends to overemphasize the first feature, and the other half tends to overemphasize the second. (Within the legal academy and most of the rest of the academy, surely the overemphasis on the first is even more lopsided.) 

Posted by Paul Horwitz on August 31, 2023 at 08:55 AM in Paul Horwitz | Permalink


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