Since I've been thinking about book criticism and discussion lately, I read this article from last Sunday's Boston Globe with interest. It's a good take on what makes a film critic. The writer says that, more than anything else, a professional film critic needs to provide "context" to his audience. The priority that he gives to "context" is reminiscent of my beliefs about the value of a liberal arts education (which, it seems, is going the way of the record album).
I've often thought that a good liberal arts college education -- with literature, history and philosophy as its mainstays -- is meant to provide "context" for our future, whatever we decide to do or become. Philosophy hands us the tools to analyze issues and dilemmas, both large and small, personal and professional; literature offers an almost inexhaustible supply of models of human behavior to consult in our dealings in society; and history assures us that virtually everything we encounter in the world has an antecedent, and that we can benefit from understanding the failures and successes of our past. If, instead, our undergraduate years are meant solely to prepare us for a job or career, we're missing some critical knowledge and skills, without which, I believe, no one can be truly successful.
But I digress.