"What is this babbler trying to say?" Acts 17:18

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Greeks Seek After Wisdom; Americans Seek After...What?

Although I was generally unfavorable impressed with the novel Lucky Jim, something did catch my attention because it addresses education and choosing a profession, two things that I (and hopefully some other college students) have given passing thought to. Kingsley Amis, a British novelist and acquaintance of C.S.Lewis, has his protagonist, Dixon, receive a question from a colleague about why he got a job teaching medieval history. Dixon candidly answers:
the reason I'm a medievalist, as you call it, is that the medieval papers were a soft option in the Leicester course so I specialized in them. Then when I applied for the job here I naturally made a big point of that because it looked better to seem interested in something specific. It's why I got the job instead of that clever boy from Oxford... Haven't you noticed how we all specialize in what we hate most? (35).

I wonder how many students today major in psychology or cultural studies and so on, for the same reason. Of course, for them the chance of getting a job in such a field is slim, even if they wanted one. If it is not for the disinterested love of learning and it is not for a job in the particular major they choose, what is it people go to college for? The Greeks sought after knowledge for the sake of knowledge alone or to make themselves better, more virtuous citizens. In later times, more pragmatic people have wanted knowledge of certain skills and information to better them in their career. Many in the halls of learning today do not seem to fall into either class, in fact, they just seem to have fallen into class out of the sky. I wonder how many people with regard to learning say in unison with Dixon: "you don't think I take all that stuff seriously, do you?" (34).

Confession: To be honest, I don't really know why I'm in class either. Isn't it easy to condemn in others the very faults we ourselves have?

Amis, Kingsley. Lucky Jim. The Viking Press, 28th. printing 1973

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