Harper's Magazine, July Los Angeles Review of Books, December 29,
On the uses of a liberal education: September 1, Harper's Magazine Mark Edmundson A college student getting a liberal arts education ponders filling out a questionnaire that includes an opportunity for him to evaluate his instructor.
At times it appears that the purpose of his education is just to entertain him. Today is evaluation day in my Freud class, and everything has changed. The class meets twice a week, late in the afternoon, and the clientele, about fifty undergraduates, tends to drag in and slump, looking disconsolate and a little lost, waiting for a jump start.
To get the discussion moving, they usually require a joke, an anecdote, an off-the-wall question -- When you were a kid, were your Halloween getups ego costumes, id costumes, or superego costumes? That sort of thing. But today, as soon as I flourish the forms, a buzz rises in the room.
Today they write their assessments of the course, their assessments of me, and they are without a doubt wide-awake. Whatever interpretive subtlety they've acquired during the term is now out the window.
As I retreat through the door -- I never stay around for this phase of the ritual -- I look over my shoulder and see them toiling away like the devil's auditors.
They're pitched into high writing gear, even the ones who struggle to squeeze out their journal entries word by word, stoked on a procedure they have by now supremely mastered. They're playing the informed consumer, letting the provider know where he's come through and where he's not quite up to snuff.
But why am I so distressed, bolting like a refugee out of my own classroom, where I usually hold easy sway? Chances are the evaluations will be much like what they've been in the past -- they'll be just fine.
It's likely that I'll be commended for being "interesting" and I am commended, many times overthat I'll be cited for my relaxed and tolerant ways that happens, toothat my sense of humor and capacity to connect the arcana of the subject matter with current culture will come in for some praise yup.
I've been hassled this term, finishing a manuscript, and so haven't given their journals the attention I should have, and for that I'm called -- quite civilly, though -- to account.
Overall, I get off pretty well. Yet I have to admit that I do not much like the image of myself that emerges from these forms, the image of knowledgeable, humorous detachment and bland tolerance.
I do not like the forms themselves, with their number ratings, reminiscent of the sheets circulated after the TV pilot has just played to its sample audience in Burbank.
Most of all I dislike the attitude of calm consumer expertise that pervades the responses. I'm disturbed by the serene belief that my function -- and, more important, Freud's, or Shakespeare's, or Blake's -- is to divert, entertain, and interest.
Observes one respondent, not at all unrepresentative: I don't teach to amuse, to divert, or even, for that matter, to be merely interesting. When someone says she "enjoyed" the course -- and that word crops up again and again in my evaluations -- somewhere at the edge of my immediate complacency I feel encroaching self-dislike.
That is not at all what I had in mind. The off-the-wall questions and the sidebar jokes are meant as lead-ins to stronger stuff -- in the case of the Freud course, to a complexly tragic view of life.
But the affability and the one-liners often seem to be all that land with the students; their journals and evaluations leave me little doubt.Mark Edmundson.
After I watched the Edmundson interview, I did some research on the Internet, and I discovered that Edmundson isn’t the obscure professor that I thought he was, he’s well-known. to see it as a guide to life — are the central questions to ask in a literary education. Right now they are being ignored, even shunned.
Self and Soul: A Defense of Ideals Kindle Edition by Mark Edmundson (Author) Be the first to review this item. Read a Times Higher Education interview with Edmundson; In the Chronicle Review, read Edmundson’s impassioned plea for a return to “the great ideals of the ancient world” In the New York Times, read Edmundson’s response to the argument, prevalent in Freudian psychotherapy, that idealism is impractical and neurotic.
by Mark Edmundson "A small treasure, both Edmundson's portrait of Lears and his high-relief, visceral snapshot of Medford." The wry and affecting story of the teacher who got under the author's skin and pointed his life in a new direction, much for the better. An author named, Mark Edmundson is also a professor of Freud course -He teaches 50 undergraduate students.-It is the day of evaluation-every student was really excited to do the evaluation and really put effort and thoughts in to it.
Reviews “Mark Edmundson's lively account of the way we educate now offers enjoyment and enlightenment.” – Harold Bloom “A heartfelt, beautifully written, profound, and often hilarious appeal to rage against the machinery of modern education.”Booklist (starred review).