Eric Miller makes some important points in "Alone in the Academy" (February), his MacIntyre-inspired lament about the modern university. Among the most important points is that a university which elevates a deracinated liberalism to the status of doctrine will be unable to provide anything that could justly be called a liberal education.
However, I would quarrel with his claim that such liberalism is expressive of an essentially jaded and socially dispirited institution. What he calls the "dominant liberal stand-point" of the university seems to me to be rather one instance of the communitarian purpose he wishes it to have. Mr. Miller's liberal opponents agree with him, I think, that the universities ought to provide a collective moral goal; they disagree about the content of that goal.
To be sure, Mr. Miller does write eloquently of the need for openness and wonder in a university education. But a harmony or synthesis of communitarian purpose and theoretical openness is what many of his liberal counterparts are after, too, and what they have failed repeatedly to deliver. That they adopt a more cynical pose nowadays is only to be expected.
A more modest yet potentially more invigorating hope might be that our universities strive, not to edify or regenerate the community, but to educate the people (or some or many of the people) who...