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Wendell Berry and Higher Education: Cultivating Virtues of Place

by Jack R. Baker and Jeffrey Bilbro foreword by Wendell Berry

Availablecloth$50.00x 978-0-8131-6902-6
Availableepub$50.00x 978-0-8131-6904-0
Availableweb pdf$50.00x 978-0-8131-6903-3
Culture of the Land
268 pages  Pubdate: 06/13/2017  6 x 9  

Prominent author and cultural critic Wendell Berry is well known for his contributions to agrarianism and environmentalism, but his commentary on education has received comparatively little attention. Berry has been eloquently unmasking America’s cultural obsession with restless mobility for decades, arguing that it causes damage to both the land and the character of our communities. Education, he maintains, plays a central role in this obsession, inculcating in students’ minds the American dream of moving up and moving on.

Drawing on Berry’s essays, fiction, and poetry, Jack R. Baker and Jeffrey Bilbro illuminate the influential thinker’s vision for higher education in this pathbreaking study. Each chapter begins with an examination of one of Berry’s fictional narratives and then goes on to consider how the passage inspires new ways of thinking about the university’s mission. Throughout, Baker and Bilbro argue that instead of training students to live in their careers, universities should educate students to inhabit and serve their places. The authors also offer practical suggestions for how students, teachers, and administrators might begin implementing these ideas.

Baker and Bilbro conclude that institutions guided by Berry’s vision might cultivate citizens who can begin the work of healing their communities—graduates who have been educated for responsible membership in a family, a community, or a polity.

Jack R. Baker is associate professor of English at Spring Arbor University.

Jeffrey Bilbro, assistant professor of English at Spring Arbor University, is the author of Loving God’s Wildness: The Christian Roots of Ecological Ethics in American Literature.

A masterful argument. Baker and Bilbro have given us a brilliant companion to Berry’s work that will guide readers—students, parents, professors, and administrators—to rethink educational values and institutional trajectories. -- Morris A. Grubbs, editor of Conversations with Wendell Berry

Wendell Berry and Higher Education offers a helpful and much-needed counternarrative to the pragmatic visions of higher education that dominate the current discussion. Works like this are essential for finding a way forward in a time marked by the arrogance of Wall Street, the failure of political discourse, and educational practices that hide more problems than they address. -- Matt Bonzo, coauthor of Wendell Berry and the Cultivation of Life: A Reader’s Guide

The authors present an enlightening interpretation of Wendell Berry’s philosophy for the pursuit of a holistic higher education. -- Publishers Weekly

This book is a profound, expansive treatment of Wendell Berry’s thought applied in a particular context. In this frame, the book serves as a helpful introduction to the vast writing works of Wendell Berry. For those largely unfamiliar with his work, this book can be a helpful place to start. This is especially true of Berry’s holistic economic philosophy, to which he refers as The Great Economy, a complex and rich vision of holistic communal flourishing.

In a competitive market, where college campuses engage in expensive marketing campaigns, amenities arm races, and cutthroat discounting to recruit students, Wendell Berry and Higher Education raises critical questions for higher education leaders. Those looking for a catalyst for deep conversations on the role of higher education within the fabric of local communities and economics, this is a provocative read. -- Englewood Review of Books

Baker and Bilbro do a fine job pointing out the ways in which imagination, work, and language can become portals for learning the art of caring for our places. With a swift burst of energy and clarity, the authors show how Berry affirms the virtues of place through tradition (remembering our story), hierarchy (practicing gratitude and respecting limits), geography (reaping the fruits of fidelity), and community (learning to love the membership). -- Spirituality & Practice

Baker and Bilbro do admirable work of applying Berry to the Leviathan of higher education. -- Ordained Servant