The Sophomore Slump
Philosophy professor James K.A. Smith observes that some of the most promising college freshmen lose their edge in their sophomore year. From an open letter to a college freshman, warning him not to become one of those sophomores:
It’s not just that you’re a year wiser; you carry the air of the newly enlightened. Your curiosity has hardened into a misplaced confidence; your desire to learn has turned into a penchant to pronounce, as if wisdom were a race to being the quickest debunker. You used to wonder about the social vision behind Philip Larkin’s poetry, or whether Thomas Aquinas’s notion of natural law could really work in a secular age, but now you seem more intent on unmasking “micro-aggressions” and detecting colonial prejudice in a canon that you increasingly disdain.
I’ve seen it before—I see it every year. And I know where it is coming from.
I know those colleagues who confuse teaching with advocacy—those colleagues who think they are broadening your horizons and opening up your world and disabusing you of your former narrowness. Teachers who delight in debunking “traditional” values that your parents espouse, teachers for whom cultural criticism consists of scoffing at anything “conservative.”
They were my teachers, too. I know how it feels to be invited into this exclusive club. I understand the joy ride of liberal enlightenment. But what if they’re asking you to trade one sort of narrowness for another?
Read the whole thing. I’m thrilled to see Jamie appearing in the Wall Street Journal! More people should know about him and his work.
(By the way, I wrote this on Saturday night and am scheduling it to appear on Sunday. I’m continuing to observe a Sabbath away from the blog. I won’t be approving comments till Sunday night, after the dinner party we’re having for my mom and dad, to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. Expect a VFYT. In fact, I’ve got a huge backlog of VFYTs to post. I hope you’re hungry.)