Guess you can tell, I've been pondering a lot about culture lately. What it means to have a Western culture, why it's valuable, if it's worth keeping as a distinct entity. And if we don't, what happens when we lose it.
That's why a couple posts at Tam's place struck a nerve today.
First, the thing about the end goal of humanities instruction basically being to become an instructor oneself. It does sound absurd.. but wait a moment. There's an honest to gosh reason for some of that - two thousand plus years of cultural heritage rests in the minds of the (good) teachers, and that's something that needs to be replaced as each generation passes. Think of it as the secular version of apostolic succession*. Sure you can learn from a book - but without the experience of a lifetime in the field, it's too easy to ignore some critical piece of context that colors the whole conclusion you come to.
(Washington, the Whisky Rebellion, and the Terror came to mind there).
So yes, there's a good reason for the prof to want to hold on to the few truly "love the subject" kids to be profs themselves someday. That's how we keep our heritage alive**.
Heck... our ancestors knew this. They knew if you want to break a rebellious people, you fracture their sense of an independent identity. That I learned from the harp classes - how in 17th century Ireland, Elizabeth I had harps burned and harpers killed, so as to destroy the native oral culture. A hundred-some years later, Scotland's tartans and pipes came under similar laws. Heck, we did it in our Indian schools - take away your enemy's children and raise them yourself in your own culture. A few generations later, ease up on the trappings and color - let them have back their tartan or their language or whatnot, once it becomes an expression not of independence and rebelliousness but regional/cultural pride alone.
It's been done and done and done... because it works.
So back to square one this morning.
What does it mean to have a Western culture? A distinct American culture? Is it being attacked? If so, what would replace it? Is it worth defending? If so - how to do that?
More later. Time to participate in another trapping of modern western culture. Getting out of the house on time time to be at work.
* Just using it as an example. Apostolic Succession as a doctrine is worthy of a whole diary entry on its own someday. Probably not any time soon though.
** The number of kids pushed towards that tradition, and the composition of the modern canon? That's another subject, and will get its own post soon.