As part of his conversation about the problems of higher education, Stanley Fish discovered plans to just scrap everything and start over:
Stephen Blackwood, a young man fresh from receiving his doctoral degree , … told me — can you believe it? — that he is starting from scratch a new liberal arts college, Ralston College, to be located in Savannah, GA. Either blissfully unaware of the obstacles rehearsed in the woe-is-us books or wrapped in the armor of faith and innocence like a modern St. George, Blackwood, without very much experience or money, has so far managed to secure a promise of buildings to house his new enterprise, gained the moral and honorific support of Harold Bloom, Hilary Putnam and Salman Rushdie, and applied for a tax status that will allow him to recruit and admit students, all of whom will receive full tuition scholarships paid for by the funds he plans to raise in the near future.
When they get to Savannah, the students of Ralston College will find that the school year is the entire year, 12 months, that they are expected to dine together and wear academic gowns, that they will all be reading the same texts organized around a yearly theme (in successive years, the Self, God, Nature, Community and the Beautiful), that the texts will be “supremely difficult” and begin with Greek and Roman authors, many of whom will be revisited the next year under the aegis of a new theme, and that they will also be receiving instruction in the visual arts, mathematics, the sciences and foreign languages (at least two).
“We believe,” declares the college’s Web brochure, “that the goal of general education is to produce a person who can draw on different fields of knowledge and at the same time grasp the whole of which each field is a part.” This means that “Ralston is fundamentally about reading books, thinking about them, and talking about them.” No on-line instruction, no departmental structure, no professorial ranks, no athletic programs, no teacher evaluations (student-centered education but not on the customer model) and no tenure. Back to the future! Plato and students under the plane tree in Savannah.
Sounds great. Jibes with my opinions about the type of education students are getting in college. Where do I send my CV?
I read further to see if Fish found fault with the proposed structure of Ralston College. He didn’t. In fact, according to the college’s Twitter feed, Fish just joined the Board of Visitors.