‘A book is a mirror,” an 18th-century aphorist wrote. “If an ass looks into it, you can’t expect an apostle to look out.” Quote this line with approval to college students now and you’ll court cancellation. Yet the arrow hits the mark cleanly. Much of formal education over the past 50 years or so, especially in the humanities, has become a delusive exercise in mass evasion of this discomfiting truth. At one time the purpose of education was to enhance and even transform the essence of the human being peering back at us in the mirror; now its purpose is …
This article appears as “It Isn’t Even Past” in the November 2, 2020, print edition of National Review.
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