"The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing," wrote the poet Archilochus in the seventh century B.C. In our time his aphorism was given currency by the philosopher Isaiah Berlin. And a couple of years ago, the pithy saying was picked up by a newly founded journal, The Hedgehog Review: Critical Reflections on Contemporary Culture, the brainchild of sociologist James Davison Hunter. Published three times a year by the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, a Hunter-directed think tank at the University of Virginia, and capably edited by Jennifer Geddes, the journal has just completed its second year with a special issue, "What's the University For?" that will be of interest to many readers of Books & Culture.
An editorial note at the outset poses the question thus: "In what ways will this Enlightenment-era institution (with roots that draw from the inheritance of even deeper Christian sources)"—the university, that is—"be sustained in an increasingly post-Enlightenment social order?" Even if one dissents to a greater or lesser degree from this formulation, with its implied emphasis on the great modern/postmodern divide, it's hard to disagree with the conclusion that "the nature and direction of higher education certainly warrants serious and sustained reflection."
Jackson Lears's subject is "The Radicalism of Tradition: Teaching the Liberal Arts in a Managerial Age." Lears begins rather self-consciously with an unhelpful gambit, explaining how both conservatives and leftists in the academic theater of the culture war have missed the point about what is really going on in the university. Along the way, of course, he is careful to establish his liberal bona fides (as in a reference to "the ...1
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