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Ron Srigley

Ron Srigley is Assistant Professor in the Department of Religious Studies and Coordinator of the Global Issues Program at the University of Prince Edward Island. He is the translator of Albert Camus’ Christian Metaphysics and Neoplatonism and the author of Eric Voegelin’s Platonic Theology: Philosophy of Consciousness and Symbolization in a New Perspective and Albert Camus’ Critique of Modernity.

Technology has a place in classrooms, but it shouldn’t be a crutch used by lazy professors

My article “Pass, Fail” in The Walrus seems to have triggered a massive response from readers, most of it approbative but some of it highly critical, in several instances verging on being ad hominem. Happily, this not the case with Darryl Whetter’s “The Kids Are Alright.” He does not agree with my argument, but nor does he condemn it. Rather, he attempts to think about it critically. I offer the following brief remarks in response to his concerns. Darryl Whetter’s criticism of my article consists of two substantial assertions and two corollaries. First the assertions: (1) Technology has not had the deleterious effect on education I claim it has; (2) neither student ability nor university education per se has declined over the past several decades in the way I suggest. As to the corollaries: (1) Professors who endorse either or both of these assertions may be nostalgic, narcissistic, and perhaps even ill-inclined toward contemporary students; (2) my article indicates that I am such a professor. I’ll address Whetter’s substantial assertions directly; I’ll leave the matter of the corollaries to the readers’ judgement. First, nowhere in the article do I offer a wholesale critique of technology or of its role in university education, as Whetter suggests. Nor am I against technology in the manner in which the comparison of me with Bernard of Clairvaux implies (the prostitutes aren’t “student e-distraction.” The students are the mill workers. The prostitutes are those who profit from their misfortune—the lower ranks of the administrative cast, the student services cabal and the e-cheerleaders.) Insofar as I have a critique of technology, I’d be inclined to agree with Jaron Lanier—technology is merely a tool, and should be thought of and used as such. To think of it as being more than this—as salvation, as the most important… Read More

If I Didn’t Laugh I’d Cry: An Essay on Happiness, Productivity, and the Death of Humanities Education

I am not happy these days. I teach in the humanities at a Canadian University. And – unlike my more Protestant-minded, less eudemonistical colleagues – I think persistent, intractable unhappiness is a clear sign that something is wrong. The following remarks are therefore a hybrid of personal therapy and scholarly analysis. My suspicion is that the state of post-secondary humanities education is the source of my unhappiness. Curing myself, or less ambitiously, simply understanding the cause of my malaise, will require a little self-reflection and a little rummaging around in the potpourri of modern higher education. Twenty years ago I enjoyed my job and looked forward to teaching classes. I do not mean to suggest that all was well in those days; it wasn’t – not by a long shot. As early as 1969, George Grant argued that a fundamental shift in the university – away from study of the liberal arts and sciences toward the creation of research institutions animated by the spirit of technology and aimed at mastery of human and non-human nature – had been underway for decades and was already nearing completion. If Grant was right, then the pleasant experiences I remember as a young scholar were merely the residual influence of a tradition that had, in fact, capitulated decades earlier and in whose glory I was basking naively, like an amateur astronomer delighting in the light of a star that has been dark for centuries. By turns sobering and discouraging, this awareness makes me wonder what in the world I am doing. I am trying to make an argument my betters made over forty years ago without having any appreciable influence on their institutions; and I am making it in a context so far removed from theirs that the voice of that small residue of… Read More