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Venus Lie Trap

March 17, 2010

Here’s something to follow up on the earlier discussion regarding the life of the mind.

In “The Big Lie About the ‘Life of the Mind,'” the columnist “Thomas H. Benton” argues thatgraduate school in the humanities is based on “structurally … limiting” the potential employment options of students. He is right, just as he is correct that there is a special place in hell for those professors who avoid their responsibilities in making graduate training honest and humane. Still, he is wrong when he concludes that graduate school in the humanities is a “trap” and a “lie.”

I am arguing here for the life of the mind, or at least a version of it. I was inspired to write this by the recent articles on the topic written by Benton (aka William Pannapacker, a professor of English at Hope College), and the intense and passionate response they provoked among this newspaper’s readers (The Chronicle, February 12). It would be difficult not to feel moved by the arguments and anecdotes that readers shared.

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