In this engrossing memoir that covers fifty years of a lifetime spent in education as student, teacher, dean, and college president, the author presents a theme of profound importance for society in general, and for the future of education in particular – the loss of the liberal arts in our time, and how to regain them.
When young Robert Gannon was a college freshman in the early twentieth century, it was unthinkable that there would ever be a time when Greek and Latin would not be an essential part of the college curriculum. But over the next several decades, in a world radically altered by two world wars, he saw the liberal arts retreat before the New Materialism.
With wit and charm Gannon recounts along the way colorful episodes and amusing experiences of his many years involved with education and the liberal arts. He reflects on the great impact for good that the liberal arts have had in forming generations of students, and why their loss is such a tragedy. His trenchant remarks on the state of modern education in America and its future prospects make The Poor Old Liberal Arts a spirited, enjoyable and insightful work.
"It is well, in these days of multiculturalism and relativism, that a book like this one is republished. It contains many things most students or faculty never heard of or dare speak in public. The liberal arts are almost nowhere to be found in existing colleges anywhere. . . . The pleas for 'multi-cultural' education to replace liberal arts are really a form of relativism, a refusal to take the issue of standards, truth, and human nobility seriously. In the name of 'culture', we bypass the one culture that grounded what it is to be human itself, what it is to be open to what is, to the divine."
— Fr. James Schall, S.J., from the Introduction