Don’t Major in English: And Other Bad Advice from the World

Education should rehumanize us. In higher education, with the guidance of professors and mentors and elders, we should move through Homer, Newton, Wordsworth, Du Bois, O’Connor, and be transformed by our love for the good, true, and beautiful, into the person we are meant to be.
In Alessandro Manzoni’s recently translated novel, The Betrothed, the world is regularly pitted against the sanctity of a few. The novel often asks the reader, an implicit echo, how do you live as a faithful Christian when so much evil persists in the world? But more than anything, it shows us the reality of forgiveness and the possibility of fulfilling Jesus’s most challenging commandment: love your enemies.
I hope students will throw themselves into these divisive conversations robustly. Call nonsense what it is when you hear it. Offend everyone around you with the truth. Do not fear to pursue the intellectual life with vigor. I am certain the world is hungry for more courageous and selfless women and men to learn, to know, and to speak truth.
The trick of John Kennedy Toole’s novel is that it draws you into the story with its comedy without requiring you to consciously assess the disjointedness of the protagonist’s way of reading the world. Even without stepping back and intellectualizing the problem, you learn how not to read by experiencing Reilly’s inept ways of reading and living.
An education in the liberal arts is one that teaches students to love what is true, good, and beautiful. It frees the soul and makes those who have received it want to pass that freedom on to others.