Wendell Berry and Higher EducationCultivating Virtues of Place

Wendell Berry and Higher EducationCultivating Virtues of Place

Jack R. Baker and Jeffrey Bilbro

Print publication date: 2018

ISBN: 9780813169026

Publisher: University Press of Kentucky


The current university system caters to Americans’ consumerist, selfish motives: universities promise to deliver lucrative employment and “upward mobility,” and for these sought-after commodities they demand ever-higher tuition. As Wendell Berry has been arguing for decades, however, an education founded upon such a reductive economic exchange causes real damage to our land and our communities. In opposition to the deracinated educational culture, Berry’s fiction, essays, and poetry provide a vision for an education in the virtues of place. His understanding of place includes not only a geographic dimension but also the dimensions of hierarchy, community, and tradition. This book explores how a university might educate students to be properly placed in all these dimensions. Part 1, “Rooting Universities,” explores how imagination, language, and work help to locate us responsibly in our places. Part 2, “Cultivating Virtues of Place,” considers how universities might foster four virtues—memory, gratitude, fidelity, and love—that are particularly relevant to orienting ourselves within these four dimensions of place. University communities guided by Berry’s vision might produce graduates who can begin the work of healing their places, graduates who have been educated for “responsible membership in a family, a community, or a polity.”