The Voice Of Liberal Learning

Adam Kirsch revisits W. H. Auden's poetic address to the Harvard Commencement of 1946. The poem Auden delivered that day, “Under Which Lyre,” reminds us, in Kirsch's words,

that all the official apparatus of the university is extraneous to its highest purpose, which is to cultivate freedom and inwardness. It is a message that still needs to be heard today, when the expense of higher education forces so many students to look at it as an investment, rather than an adventure.

I love the ending:

    Thou shalt not do as the dean pleases,
    Thou shalt not write thy doctor’s thesis
            On education,
    Thou shalt not worship projects nor
    Shalt thou or thine bow down before

    Thou shalt not answer questionnaires
    Or quizzes upon World-Affairs,
            Nor with compliance
    Take any test. Thou shalt not sit
    With statisticians nor commit
            A social science.