What Does It Mean to Be “Well-Educated”?

I hope to have a Great Books Project post up in the next day or so. In the meantime, I direct your attention to a recent post over at the Imaginative Conservative website by Joseph Pearce on the topic of being “well-educated.”

The title? “The Arrogant Ignorance of the ‘Well-Educated'”

Pearce reacts in this post to a bumper sticker that reads, “What you call the Liberal Elite, we call being well-educated.” He argues that what the 21st-century school system considers “well educated” is severely deficient. For example:

If she was educated in our secular system, she would have learned nothing whatsoever about theology, presuming that, if there is a God, he, or probably she, agrees with us. If he or she does not agree with us, he or she can go to hell. And, of course, we can tell God to go to hell because he or she is made in our image (we are not made in his/hers) and we can do what we like with him or her. In short, we can treat God with the same arrogance and superciliousness with which we treat our neighbor: “What God calls sin, we call being well-educated.”

Pearce goes on about our educational systems’ shortcoming in other fields of knowledge as well. He pulls no punches. (If you are familiar at all with Pearce’s writing, this will not surprise you.) The conclusion is blistering:

To be “well-educated” is to be ignorant of theology, philosophy, history and the great books of civilization. It is to believe that we have nothing to learn from the Great Conversation that has animated human discourse for three millennia. It is to treat our neighbor in the car next to us with supercilious and scornful contempt, presuming that he is stupid because he is not as “well-educated” as we. It is to treat the greatest minds and the most brilliant writers in history with contempt because they are not as “well-educated” as we. In short, to be “well-educated” is not merely ignorance, it is the arrogance of ignorance.

Read the whole thing. Then go back to reading the Great Books!

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About Dr. J

I am Professor of Humanities at Faulkner University, where I chair the Department of Humanities and direct online M.A. and Ph.D. programs based on the Great Books of Western Civilization. I am also Associate Editor of the Journal of Faith and the Academy and a member of the faculty at Liberty Classroom.
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2 Responses to What Does It Mean to Be “Well-Educated”?

  1. David says:

    The great conversation is what entangles us intellectually, as it should, considering that it entails the endless topics and considerations that humans have always found most important to living meaningfully and understanding the world we live in. It should be no surprise that the postmodern-types have extricated all of these subjects and contents (e.g., the Great Books) from “education,” as they are devoutly desirous of ignorance on anything associated with the word “meaning.” Rather than undertake the project of exposing the supposedly fallacious nature of meaning by trying to undermine these subjects and considerations, they presuppose that there is no such thing as meaning, and ignore those important thoughts contained in classical canon. It fills me with disgust that any educator could suppose that the negation of such historically relevant ideas constitute any kind of education, let alone being “well educated.” I can’t tell you how many English PhD candidates I know who have not read a single Great Book. I don’t know how one is expected to be a scholar, if they don’t understand the human condition, for example, which is so well discussed in the many classical works of fiction.

    This topic frustrates me to no extent.

  2. Sermattei says:

    in practice conservatives make poor immigrants illegal; and liberals make the unborn illegal; each in practice meaning need is a nuisance.

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