Education in the true sense – is “a furtive and illicit thing” – creates people who can think for themselves

FC9781609382810Greensboro’s exceptional independent bookstore, Scuppernong Books, recently brought Hillsborough authors Lee Smith and Hal Crowther to town. Both Smith and Crowther have just published new books. (The combination of Scuppernong’s Brian Lampkin, Smith, and Crowther – all of them his friends – drew Tarboro publisher Farrar Martin and daughter Mary Marshall to Scuppernong, as well.)

Crowther’s new book is An Infuriating American: The Incendiary Arts of H. L. Mencken. It opens with this Mencken pronouncement:

Education in the truest sense – education directed toward awakening a capacity to differentiate between fact and appearance – always will be a more or less furtive and illicit thing, for its chief purpose is the controversion and destruction of the very ideas that the majority of men – and particularly the majority of official and powerful men – regard as incontrovertibly true. To the extent that I am genuinely educated, I am suspicious of all the things that the average citizen believes and the average pedagogue teaches. Progress consists entirely of attacking and disposing of these ordinary beliefs.

Set that alongside the not-as-incendiary vision of Nereus Mendenhall that Guilford College will:

produce men and women with well-trained minds and good hearts; people who can think for themselves and not be blown about by every wind of doctrine.

Are these two views the same as the current vision that higher education should “prepare students for the workplace”? Could be I suppose, if the workplace is hungry for independent thinkers.

Independent thinking is pretty much what’s needed in lawyers. “Controversion.”

Guilford College prepares independent thinkers who are practiced at collaboration. Now, that’s what the workplace needs.

Eat your heart out, H.L.

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