I first read Barzun’s book ‘The House of Intellect’ in college, on the recommendation of a Politics professor of mine who was advising me on my academic future. The House of Intellect has incredible foresight – written in 1959 but one would think it was written last year.
I still reference the book on some occasion when I teach. One of my primary pet peeves with my students is their tendency to put ‘I feel’ in front of everything they say. My response: ‘Don’t be such a wuss. Assert what you think is the case, if you are wrong don’t worry, someone will tell you!’ I also still get annoyed at the nearly exclusive emphasis on teaching technique (‘engaging the students’) and a corresponding decline in attention paid to the actual content of courses. I don’t know if I am a good teacher, but I know I teach great books. If everyone did that, I think we’d be in better shape.
Here is a recent review of the old book. The book is worth reading for those interested in education in America (and the anti-intellectualism it has helped foster).