Peter Lawler

Written by Peter Lawler

Peter Augustine Lawler (1951-2017) was the Dana Professor of Government at Berry College in Georgia and editor of the Perspectives on Political Science. He was author of numerous books, the latest being American Heresies and Higher Education (2016).

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Someone might say—and libertarians skeptics often do—that classes in philosophy and literature are given a quite an arbitrarily inflated value by according them credit. Do away with the credit system and give degrees based on real demonstration of measurable competencies valuable in the 21st century marketplace, and you’ll find out what studying Plato’s Republic is really worth. I admit that’s a humbling…

I’ve gotten several emails about this article by Joanne Lipman in the Wall Street Journal. The bottom line is that the teachers who get the best results are all about really tough love. The best way to motivate students is to challenge them with realistic (and therefore tough) assessments of their shortcomings. It’s a good idea to shout at them when they’re slacking…

So here’s a funny article on the sheer silliness and passive-aggressive hostility of the jargon that dominates the worlds of management, consultants, marketing, and all that. That world, it seems to me, is divided between people who use that language earnestly in the belief that it is a sign of scientific precision and sophistication and those who use it ironically.
There are those…

What Villanova should be famous for is its well-funded and brilliantly staffed ”great books” gen-ed alternative program and a real surge in “great books” humanities majors. The program really does has a Christian/Augustinian focus without in any way neglecting either classical or modern authors.
Now, according to Tocqueville, the point of higher education today is to be a countercultural corrective to…

Plenty of liberals—and not just liberal professors—think there is a conservative conspiracy to use online education and MOOCs, to destroy genuinely higher education in this country. I see no organized conspiracy, and much of the liberal paranoia amounts to whining about the results of legitimate political defeats. Nonetheless, there is something to the thought that hostility to higher education as it…

One reason I can’t buy the claim that conservative intellectual has become an oxymoron is that on our campuses it’s so often the conservatives who defend “liberal education.” I’m going to sketch out the understanding of “liberal education” or “general education” shared by me and many of my fellow professorial conservatives (a tiny and shrinking minority oppressed from all sides…

What are the ends of education? We mean, of course, the ends for us, for us democratic Americans.
So we begin with the best book ever written on democracy and the best book ever written on America—Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America.
America, Tocqueville noticed, is an overwhelmingly middle-class country. To be middle class, of course, is to be stuck in the…

E.D. Hirsch (the cultural literacy guy) has, I think, written the most important article on educational “outcomes” in a long time. The great benefit of education, “the key to increasingly upward mobility,” is expanding the vocabulary of students. Why is that?

Hirsch observes that “vocabulary size is a convenient proxy for a whole range of educational attainments and abilities—not just…

So it is characteristic of us professors of political philosophy to neglect what is really going in the “hard” sciences. I remember, for example, being astonished that Allan Bloom, in The Closing of the American Mind, came close to saying that the one real thing in American universities otherwise deformed by relativism was natural science. And then he said virtually…

So here’s my contribution to a symposium on “originalism” as the mode of interpreting the Constitution that facilitates the maximization of the libertarian value of “negative liberty.” Everyone else in the symposium operates on a higher pay grade than I do when it comes to really knowing all about the controversies in the field of constitutional law right now. There’s…