What is the value of a liberal education? Traditionally characterized by a rigorous engagement with the classics of Western thought and literature, this approach to education is all but extinct in American universities, replaced by flexible distribution requirements and ever-narrower academic specialization. Many academics attack the very idea of a Western canon as chauvinistic, while the general public increasingly doubts the value of the humanities. In “Rescuing Socrates,” Dominican-born American academic Roosevelt Montas tells the story of how a liberal education transformed his life, and offers an intimate account of the relevance of the Great Books today, especially to members of historically marginalized communities.
Montas emigrated from the Dominican Republic to Queens, New York, when he was 12 and encountered the Western classics as an undergraduate in Columbia University’s renowned Core Curriculum, one of America’s last remaining Great Books programs. The experience changed his life and determined his career—he went on to earn a PhD in English and comparative literature, serve as director of Columbia’s Center for the Core Curriculum, and start a Great Books program for low-income high school students who aspire to be the first in their families to attend college.
Weaving together memoir and literary reflection, Rescuing Socrates describes how four authors—Plato, Augustine, Freud, and Gandhi—had a profound impact on Montas’s life.
What We Are Reading Today: How to Do Things with Emotions
Updated 04 June 2023
Author: Owen Flanagan
The world today is full of anger. Everywhere we look, we see values clashing and tempers rising, in ways that seem frenzied, aimless, and cruel. At the same time, we witness political leaders and others who lack any sense of shame, even as they display carelessness with the truth and the common good.
In “How to Do Things with Emotions,” Owen Flanagan explains that emotions are things we do, and he reminds us that those like anger and shame involve cultural norms and scripts.
“Enchanted by Daphne” is legendary ecologist Peter Grant’s personal account of his remarkable life and career. In this revelatory book, Grant takes readers from his childhood in World War II–era Britain to his ongoing research today in the Galápagos archipelago, vividly describing what it’s like to do fieldwork in one of the most magnificent yet inhospitable places on Earth.
This is also the story of two brilliant and courageous biologists raising a family together while balancing the demands of professional lives that would take them to the far corners of the globe.
“The Best Minds” is Jonathan Rosen’s brilliant and heartbreaking account of an American tragedy.
“The Best Minds” is a deeply sad book. It is a story about the bonds of family, friendship, and community; the promise of intellectual achievement; and the lure of utopian solutions.
Tender, funny, and harrowing by turns, at times almost unbearably sad, “The Best Minds” is an extreme version of a story that is tragically familiar to all too many.
In the hands of a writer of Rosen’s dedication, its significance will echo widely.
Rosen is a superb chronicler of childhood, friendship, aging, cultural history, and the impact of mental — on both the individual and the societal levels).
“A tragic story about a childhood friend ... Michael Laudor’s tragic life deeply affected the author,” said a review on Goodreads.com.
Review: ‘Star Wars Jedi: Survivor’ brings a galaxy far, far away into your home
Updated 02 June 2023
LONDON: For as long as there has been “Star Wars,” there have been spin off computer games, all the way back to the arcade classics of the early 1980s. The phenomenal success of the franchise has meant that the games cover more or less all of the genres, from flight simulators, strategy and resource management to more epic role-playing games like “Knights of the Old Republic.” The games are in a sense both a mirror of the technology of the time as well as the culture.
With that in mind, the latest edition, “Star Wars Jedi: Survivor,” combines the power of the PlayStation 5 with the character development of the more sensitive modern hero.
This is the second game for lead character Cal Kestis. In the first, “Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order,” Cal is on the run following the massacre of the Jedi, with his initial focus on hiding his powers and avoiding trouble.
By the end of the story, he was a more fully formed leader and resistance fighter against the all-powerful Empire, which is where this game starts, and such is the scale of the narrative arc that there is a fair balance of time-watching cut sequences versus actual gameplay.
That makes “Survivor” as close to an immersive “Star Wars” film that we have across the vast number of titles that preceded it. Beyond the stunning renditions of classic locations from the films, along with the iconic music and sound effects, the key to the title’s true homage to its cinematic peers is its combat engine.
Cal can choose from a range of lightsaber configurations — including the color of the blade and design of the handle — and can learn, by acquiring skill points, a vast array of different combat moves. Many involve combining use of the Force or whether Cal is up against one or multiple enemies. Whilst there is a balance of art against the carnage of button smashing, it tends to reward the former, which makes for a genuine sense of being in the shoes of a Jedi warrior.
Beyond combat, the second main aspect of gameplay that needs mastering is around the gymnastic abilities Cal uses to move around the various worlds he visits. It is essentially space parkour, with Cal running along walls, flipping and sliding his way across seemingly inaccessible environments. Again, this is high-adrenaline fun, but there is a trade off as the vast worlds Cal inhabits are not truly open and accessible, but rather hide a set route that the player must take to proceed.
The game’s main story tells of how Cal comes to terms with being one Jedi up against the Empire that has killed so many of his friends. The main character carries an aura of loss and isolation with him as he travels from planet to planet, reinforced by the fact that his best friend is the droid BD-1, who also helps with practical things like providing health top ups and hacking computers.
“Survivor” is a bigger and more ambitious game than its predecessor, with a number of side quests and micro-missions giving variety and more choice to the player. There is humor in the dialogue, and the ability of Cal to sense “Force echoes” allows for depth and detail of this impressive snapshot of the “Star Wars” universe.
As the commercialization of American higher education accelerates, more and more students are coming to college with the narrow aim of obtaining a preprofessional credential.
The traditional four-year college experience—an exploratory time for students to discover their passions and test ideas and values with the help of teachers and peers—is in danger of becoming a thing of the past.
In “College,” prominent cultural critic Andrew Delbanco offers a trenchant defense of such an education, and warns that it is becoming a privilege reserved for the relatively rich.