Saturday, September 21, 2013

Book Review Friday: How to Think: The Liberal Arts and Their Enduring Value

Okay, I'm caught, it's Saturday.

I had every intention of getting this post done yesterday.  But I suddenly turned domestic and spent the day doing laundry, empty a few boxes out of the basement (they've been there since we moved in 12 years ago) and ... cooking and baking!!  I do love a day off when I can just relax and have fun in the kitchen.  So I made Challah bread, a really delish apple pie baked burrito, and for dinner a great recipe I found on Pinterest for Better than Panda Orange Chicken, and it was!

And now for the book review, which is in fact, NOT a book.  How to Think: The Liberal Arts and Their Enduring Value is a lecture course by Dr. Michael D. C. Drout.  It it part of the Modern Scholar series by Recorded Books.  In this course Professor Drout presents his arguments for why a liberal arts education is still worth the tuition dollars it costs, even if there are no jobs for Art History majors.  Drout's argument is that regardless of whether or not you get a job in that degree field, the underlying education, the overarching grounding in logic, rhetoric, and writing skills prepares a person to excel in any endeavor.  The liberal arts he posits teach students how to think, how to reason, how to persuade, how to lead.  This has been the raison d'etre for a liberal arts education since Greek and Roman times. Drout uses his background as a Medieval English specialist to back up his claims, with one lecture devoted to a case study on Beowulf (fascinating).  He also answers the critics of liberal arts, admitting to the faults that have crept into academia, while suggesting ways to remedy them.  While this lecture series might have a limited appeal, I highly recommend it to any student hoping to convince his/her parents that paying for that Art History degree isn't a waste of money and to anyone interested in or already in possession of a degree in one of the softer sciences.

Drout's lectures are presented in a breezy, conversational style.  While the occasional pause lets you know he is referring to notes for the most part his delivery is natural and flowing.  His presentations are humorous, informative, and well-researched. From the "About Your Professor" section of From Here to Infinity:

Michael D.C. Drout is the William and Elsie Prentice Professor of English at
Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts, where he teaches courses in Old
and Middle English, medieval literature, Chaucer, fantasy, and science fiction.
Professor Drout received his Ph.D. in medieval literature from Loyola
University in 1997. He also holds M.A. degrees from Stanford (journalism)
and the University of Missouri-Columbia (English literature) and a B.A. from
Carnegie Mellon.
Full disclosure: I am an absolute Michael Drout fan.  I think I have listened to all of his lecture series.  He has done eleven.  For librarians especially, his surveys of Science Fiction (From Here to Infinity) and Fantasy (Rings, Swords, and Monsters) literature can be a great help to the perplexed reader's adviser.

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