Book Review: Another Sort of Learning
You’ve got to hand it to Fr. James Schall, he knows how to write a title:
Another Sort of Learning: Selected Contrary Essays on How Finally to Acquire an Education While Still in College or Anywhere Else: Containing Some Belated Advice about How to Employ Your Leisure Time When Ultimate Questions Remain Perplexing in Spite of Your Highest Earned Academic Degree, Together with Sundry Book Lists Nowhere Else in Captivity to Be Found
It has been said said that Jesuits, with their 13 requisite years of university education, rank among the very best and the very worst of intellectuals.
Fr. James Schall certainly ranks among the Grand Masters of our day. From 1977 to 2012, he taught generations of young leaders as a Professor of Political Philosophy at Georgetown University.
Fr. Schall specializes in the relationship between political philosophy and religion (a fascinating discussion for another day), but often the true brilliance of great minds can be seen not in carefully constructed treatises, but in the randomly inspired musings of, say, a professor with a penchant for Peanuts comics and Mad Magazine.
As a leading academic in his field at a top-ranked university, Fr. Schall understands better than anyone the strengths and the shortcomings of America’s most elite universities.
He has witnessed generations of wide-eyed freshmen parade onto campus every fall, resolutely committed to spending a small fortune on a prestigious degree, but at a complete loss as to what to study, for how could they know what they do not know?
Ever the magnanimous instructor, Fr. Schall presents to young scholars at-large Another Sort of Learning, an intellectual guidebook for those who suspect that there may be more to life than the drivel that passes for education in the typical college classroom, who have glimpsed (however fleetingly) the world beyond the Cave and yearn for more.
Plumbing the vast depths of his wisdom and experience, Fr. Schall has written a series of essays on the finer points of living and learning in his delightfully witty, informal, and often roundabout style, capping each with a profoundly learned gem of a reading list to point the budding young (or even aged) scholar in the right direction.
For example, a far-from-comprehensive list of Fr. Schall’s recommended authors, culled from a lifetime of wizened study, includes:
St. Thomas Aquinas
John Henry Newman
Reading these authors alone would leave a student wittier and wiser than all but a handful of today’s professors.
What student could possibly turn down such a glorious prize?