Letter: Liberal arts not meant to be useful

What a unpleasantly utilitarian odor the April 1 technology column (“Tech. requirement would enhance Yale education”) has — suggesting for the second time in a month in the News that the liberal arts are “utilitarian,” i.e. “useful.”

The liberal arts are designed to help people think — not to train them for “useful careers.”

John Ciardi, the late great Dante scholar, defines an intellectual as “someone capable of being excited by ideas.” Yeats said, “Education is about catching fire.”

Put the two together and you have the kindling for a liberal arts education.

Remember, it was a 1940s Yale president, A. Whitney Griswold, who in a single, dramatic stroke of thinking abolished Yale’s graduate department of education, saying, “It is not necessary to teach teachers how to teach.”

Had the country followed suit 50 years ago, America would not have developed the treadmill of information delivery systems called public education which suffocates thinking today. Instead, our classrooms would have been conducted by exponents of the liberal arts.

Down with utilitarianism. Set fires.

Paul Keane

White River Junction, Vt.

April 1

The writer is a 1980 graduate of the Yale Divinity School.

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