Bucket & Torch

October 20th, 2008 by Editor B

I was talking to Howie and he shared this passage with me:

Education is now prized not because the culture values truth and wisdom, or views scholarship as a lifetime vocation, but because it is the means to economic success. So the study of science, engineering, and business takes precedence over theology, philosophy, literature, and history as the ultimate questions raised by these disciplines become unimportant. Schools and universities, forced to justify their utility in the market’s terms, employ the latest technology to “measure” the immeasurable and to ensure the production of better workers. Students elevate grades over ideas, and either feel the pressure to forego what interests them or never ask themselves what interests them in the pursuit of a marketable skill.

— Stanley Hauerwas The Blackwell Companion to Christian Ethics

Which reminds me of an aphorism from Yeats which I recently encountered:

Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.

Yeats is more poetic (surprise) but I think they’re getting at the same thing. One could quibble with Yeats for his strident rhetorical flourish; I believe we need to both fill the bucket and ignite the torch. But I think Hauerwas is saying that in our particularly historical moment we are in danger of losing the torch entirely.

And I am inclined to agree.

One Response to “Bucket & Torch”

  1. chrissieroux Says:

    Same thing could apply to the mental health biz. We’re increasingly forced to quantify our impact–there’s no room for the art, the nuances of therapy. If you can measure it, great; if not, it’s not valuable.

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