Saturday, November 11, 2006
Kotsko on Bérubé
Adam Kotsko’s contribution to our Bérubé event is up. It says stuff you actually haven’t read six different people saying already! (There’s also an article on this ‘a liberal education?’ question in some local newspaper called the NY Times. That might be interesting.) Here’s the start of Adam’s post:
Turn with me, if you will, to page 133 of What’s Liberal? There we find the following:Even America’s elite conservatives know this [namely that the US university system is the best in the world]. They may talk a good game about liberal indoctrination here and leftist domination there, but when it comes time to send their own kids to college, do you imagine for a moment that they’re looking over the brochures for Olivet Nazarene University....?
As many readers know, Olivet Nazarene University is my alma mater and that of several regular commenters here; my co-blogger Anthony Paul Smith also went there for two years, though he had the good sense to transfer to and graduate from DePaul University. Hence I took this reference as a “shout-out” to The Weblog, primarily since I have no idea what else could’ve motivated it, unless Bérubé is a huge Chicago Bears fan. In point of fact, at least one of “America’s elite conservatives” did look over the brochures for Olivet Nazarene University—Dr. James Dobson’s son went to Olivet, and there are all manner of amusing and vicious rumors about that upstanding young man for those who are interested. This may be an exceptional situation: Dr. Dobson himself is Nazarene and is in fact the holder of an honorary doctorate from Olivet (I was playing in the band on the excruciating occasion of its conferral); I feel like he also went to Olivet in his youth, but can’t confirm that presently.
In any case, the reference to Olivet has the clear implication that an education at Olivet is inferior to that at a mainstream institution. Much as I hate to defend Olivet, I don’t think that is necessarily the case. First of all, a motivated student will be able to get a good education anywhere, even if the options as regards subject matter will be somewhat constricted. In terms of vocational-oriented programs, Olivet does very well—their nursing and education programs have strong reputations, their social work program qualifies graduates to skip directly to the second year of an MSW program, and engineering graduates seem to have a high rate of job placement. In terms of more “pure” academic programs, Olivet until recently had a very high rate of placement in graduate programs in theology, not only at seminaries but at reputable institutions such as Vanderbilt or University of Virginia. (Sadly, they have since decided to revamp the religion program into a more practically-oriented vocational program for aspiring ministers in the Church of the Nazarene.)
More to the point, however, is the program to which I devoted my undergraduate career: English literature. Bérubé’s accounts of classroom discussions and dynamics were actually not completely foreign to me. Although the balance at Olivet would obviously tip more toward the conservative side, there were still many students who leaned liberal and were only at Olivet due to their parents’ insistence (usually in the form of refusing to offer financial support if they chose to attend any other university). Additionally, there were many who came to Olivet as conservatives and were convinced to become more liberal, simply due to the process of education itself. This may have been especially the case in the English department, as the faculty was made up almost entirely of women, and obviously highly educated women are going to have less incentive to identify strongly with the ethos of a conservative religious institution that still, when I was there, regarded the “MRS degree” as a primary goal for women students ...
Greetings! I enjoyed reading this post. Check out my blog for other rants on Nazarene University life. The MRS degree was the main focus at my Nazarene institution as well.