The modern era is a peculiar one, and the modern university is unique in its challenges, assumptions, and maladies. The fall 2013 issue of Academic Questions features critical engagement with the modern university and modern madness: Jeffrey Zorn casts a critical eye toward the morphing of many an English composition course into a thing more ideological than writerly; Carol Iannone discusses the challenges of the anthropologist amidst academic and political controversy in her interview with Napoleon Chagnon; Michael J. Carter and Heather Harper propose possible cures for the sickly state of student writing; Donald Phillip Verene questions the assumptions behind the plugged-in model of education; Robert Weissberg and John Attard apply critical thinking to critical thinking and to criticisms of liberal education; Peter Wood looks at Liah Greenfeld's study Mind, Modernity, Madness; and Janice Fiamengo exposes the dangers of diagnosing ordinary stress as injurious malaise.
NAS members will receive printed copies of this issue in the mail.
The featured articles from the fall 2013 AQ are listed below.* This issue also includes poetry by David J. Rothman and a review of Mike S. Adams’s Letters to a Young Progressive by Michael Toscano. Two of this issue’s articles (Carol Iannone’s “Darkness in Anthropology: A Conversation with Napoleon Chagnon” and Jeffrey Zorn’s “English Compositionism as Fraud and Failure”) are available for free through www.nas.org.
Darkness in Anthropology: A Conversation with Napoleon Chagnon
Carol Iannone, Academic Questions
Cultural anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon has become a target for the outrage and discontent of the Marxist and postmodernist anthropological world, largely because his three decades of research among the Yanomamö tribe in the Amazon lend support to a biologically-based view of human nature—belying the utopian views of culture and humanity favored by the academic Left. Chagnon offers his thoughts on his work, his colleagues, his opponents, and his discipline to AQ editor-at-large Carol Iannone.
English Compositionism as Fraud and Failure
Jeffrey Zorn, Santa Clara University
Jeffrey Zorn explains the postmodern decay and names names in this lively article that outlines the devolution from teaching English composition into “compositionism” and maps a way back to sanity and good grammar.
Student Writing: Strategies to Reverse Ongoing Decline
Michael J. Carter, California State University, Northridge
Heather Harper, College of the Canyons
Michael J. Carter and Heather Harper discuss the significant accumulated literature on college students’ poor writing skills, listing the main causes of the deterioration and offering practical solutions to help reverse the decline.
Does Online Education Rest on a Mistake?
Donald Phillip Verene, Emory University
Donald Phillip Verene reexamines the elements of scrupulous postsecondary pedagogy and provides a vigorous check to the current euphoria over online instruction, which, in Verene’s eyes, can never replicate or replace what happens in a live classroom.
In Defense of a Liberal Education: Criticizing the Critical
John Attard, University of New Brunswick
John Attard reflects on how he came to see that academics committed to “critical theory” are actually arguing against a liberal education that encourages students to make and take their palce in the larger culture and civilization.
Critically Thinking about Critical Thinking
Robert Weissberg, emeritus, University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign
Robert Weissberg asks forthright and practical questions about the viability and even the plausibility of fostering “critical thinking” on any subject when today’s students have so little foundational knowledge upon which to draw.
The Fail-Proof Student
Janice Fiamengo, University of Ottawa
Janice Fiamengo describes how Student Mental Health and Wellness, a document the Principal’s Commission on Mental Health prepared to improve student well-being at prestigious Queen’s University Toronto, endorses policies that turn relieving “stress” into yet another form of coddling college students.
What Does Bowdoin Teach? A Dialogue between Wood and Klingenstein
Peter Wood, Academic Questions
Tom Klingenstein, Cohen, Klingenstein LLC
What Does Bowdoin Teach? a comprehensive National Association of Scholars study released this spring and authored by NAS president Peter Wood and director of research projects Michael Toscano, presents, in Wood’s words, “a full 360-degree picture of a liberal arts education at one of America’s most highly regarded colleges.” Wood and Tom Klingenstein, the study’s funder, have a frank exchange about the study’s contents, reception, and impact.
Peter Wood, Academic Questions
In his review essay of Mind, Modernity, Madness: The Impact of Culture on Human Experience, by Liah Greenfeld, Peter Wood examines Greenfeld’s understanding of mental illness not as “modern labels for age-old maladies” but “distinctly modern ailments” resulting from the breakdown of social order in the modern world.
College: Who Profits?
Herbert I. London, London Center for Policy Research
In his review essay of Is College Worth It? A Former United States Secretary of Education and a Liberal Arts Graduate Expose the Broken Promise of Higher Education, by William J. Bennett and David Wilezol, Herbert London offers his thoughts on the functions a college education serves and how today’s colleges and universities are falling short of these objectives.
*Article descriptions from “The Issue at a Glance,” Academic Questions (2013) 26:249-251.
Image: ÁWá / Wikimedia Commons