LEXINGTON, Ky. (June 28, 2017) — Well known for his contributions to agrarianism and environmentalism, prominent author and cultural critic Wendell Berry, an alumnus and former faculty member of the University of Kentucky Department of English, 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. Examining Berry’s writing, “Wendell Berry and Higher Education: Cultivating Virtues of Place,” published by University Press of Kentucky (UPK), considers how his prose inspires new ways of thinking about the university’s mission.
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 of “Wendell Berry and Higher Education” also offer practical suggestions for how students, teachers and administrators might begin implementing these ideas.
Through their examination of Berry’s work, 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 an associate professor of English at Spring Arbor University. He lives in Spring Arbor, Michigan.
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.” He lives in Jackson, Michigan.
UPK is the scholarly publisher for the Commonwealth of Kentucky, representing a consortium that includes all the state universities, five private colleges, and two historical societies. The press’ editorial program focuses on the humanities and the social sciences. Offices for the administrative, editorial, production and marketing departments of the press are found at University of Kentucky, which provides financial support toward the operating expenses of the publishing operation through the UK Libraries.
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