Wendell Berry and Higher Education |Reviewed by First Things

First Things reviewing Front Porch Republic Editor Jeffrey Bilbro’s book on Wendell Berry can only go well.

Higher education is currently designed to “prepare students and faculty alike for a ‘better place’ than home.” As Berry’s friend Wes Jackson has put it, “upward mobility” is now the only major offered. Baker and Bilbro join Jackson and Berry in calling for an education focused instead on “homecoming,” a course of study designed to help people fit into their particular places rather than join in the ruining of creation in accordance with an abstract notion of progress.

 

They also reply to some of Berry’s critics, such as those who see the language of “hierarchy” and “knowing your place” as a cover for repression based on sex and race. While acknowledging that a cycle of oppression is a real risk historically, the authors argue that the threat today comes not from “too-rigid hierarchies” but from “a chaotic lack of any order whatsoever.” With assists from Peter Leithart and Wilfred McClay, Baker and Bilbro propose that a proper “gratitude” includes the “freedom to correct and improve the gifts of our inheritance.”

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