Thomas Hibbs has pretty much hit it right on the head
These questions bring us round to Duke and Tom Wolfe's satire, which seizes on the problematic status of the soul in the contemporary university. Mr. Wolfe's title character Charlotte Simmons brings with her to Dupont a conception of soul she inherits from her devoutly Christian mother, who uses the word soul without any hint of irony or doubt. By contrast, one of Charlotte's professors, a Nobel winner for his work in neuroscience, uses the term "soul" advisedly. The self, he asserts, is "nothing more than a 'transient composite of materials from the environment.' " In an interesting convergence between the sciences and the humanities, the dissolution of the self into a series of intersecting impersonal forces is also a prominent feature of an influential postmodern philosophy.Having come back from one of the last places on earth that a young person can hope to escape the culture of death at for a time and retrieve some truly liberal learning, acclimation to America has been difficult, and I have found myself more and more occupying a radical position.
Mr. Wolfe's book suggests a subtle link between the demotion of the soul to a ghost in a machine and the exhaustion of young adult life in a series of activities--work, study, drinking, sex--lacking any overarching sense of mission. If that's right, then the problems facing the modern university in its attempt to recover its liberal arts mission go much deeper and may be more intractable than any of its contemporary critics have thus far acknowledged....
There is no easy, short-term corrective for what ails higher education. But, for parents of bright students with aspirations for more than mere social or career advancement, there is a short-term answer, a paradoxical one given what we have argued thus far. Be better consumers, tougher negotiators and don't follow the herd of parents who mindlessly rattle off a list of acceptable schools.
Here is another surely-radical opinion:
Kids, if you care for your souls and desire to find a different way than that which you have glimpsed out in the world today; if you find in yourself some strange hunger for beauty and meaning, although if you have grown up as I did in this culture these things are but enigmatic figures, opaque promises; if you have any wish to recover authenticity, life in its natural way; then, kids,
do not go to college.
Expect the derision of all for such a radical step that they will say will certainly prevent any economic achievement in your life on your part (the proof that this is their summum bonum).
Instead, before you shackle yourself beneath the gods of usury, choose to learn a trade and work with your hands, live with the poor or handicapped, find a tutor and some like-minded students, in a beautiful place, read Scripture and the Great Books in your leisure, otherwise play music and sing, dance and paint, be festive as you at last will be able to be, and celebrate the Divine Liturgy every day. (And if you find a place like this and it calls itself a "college" or "university", if such a place exists, don't worry, they are equivocating, for they certainly then cannot have anything in common with what a college or university is taken to mean today, and feel secure in going to that place.)
Despite the fact that I teach English at a college-prep high school, I am completely serious.