THE SPHERE’S editor-in-chief sat down with Profs. Lanier Anderson, Sarah Church, Dan Edelstein, and Tom Kenny to discuss their groundbreaking proposals for curricular reform. From shrinking the major to expanding the core, they discuss the place of freedom, the market, and Montaigne in their revival of liberal education. For a summary of the reforms, we recommend taking a look at this interview in Stanford News. If you want to understand the ideas behind the reforms—a universal capstone requirement, a humanistic core for freshmen, a radical rehaul of the major—keep reading.
THERE WAS probably a time in your life, not too long ago, when “socialism” was a dirty word. For some of you, it never was—but for most of us, children of the children of Reagan, it was the symbol of unspeakable evil. So unspeakable that, come to think of it, we never really knew what “socialism” meant.
I often find myself in the company of utopians. The most common on campus are the social-justice types: history’s on our side, folks, and it’s coming to an end… It’s progressive Stanford, proud home of the pseudo-Hegelian, and while Hegel has no place in the histories they’ll write, they will follow him, misinterpreted, to the end of time. Naturally, this being Silicon Valley, you also meet the transhumanists—true believers not just in our world’s perfectibility, but in the perfectibility of the body, mind, and soul (in a purely scientific sense, of course). Then, near and dear to my heart, we have our communists and communistically-inclined, pinning their hopes on the distant Revolution and a new world order. There are many more such groups at Stanford, but you get the main idea: I’m surrounded by lovely, well-meaning Teleologists. And they’re from all over the ideological map.
Every Google search leaves you on the losing end of a simple, painless transaction. Unless you’re the tape-over-the-webcam type, you probably don’t spend much time thinking about your place in the twenty-first century barter economy, but the billionaire playboy who runs your search engine isn’t the President of a charity. In exchange for your quiet acquiescence, you get access to the largest store of knowledge in human history: fully searchable, at a price unknown, under the all-seeing eyes of Sergey Brin and Larry Page.
I have a weakness for protest art. I’m one of the few remaining fans of Phil Ochs, arguably one of the greatest protest singers of all time. Sixty years ago, he had a friendly rivalry with Bob Dylan. To our generation, he’s virtually unknown.