The Teaching Company and a New Habit


I am a creature of habits. I admit it. I like rich food, I like to cook spicy dishes, I like red wines, cigars, and unfiltered cigarettes, I’m addicted to Mozart, and I spend endless hours reading. I couldn’t possibly acquire another habit at my age, could I? Yes, I could: taking recorded courses.

The Teaching Company was founded by a bureaucrat, Thomas M. Rollins, in 1990. One might say that he saw an important and unrecognized niche in American marketing: the educated commuter who wanted to know more, but didn’t have the time to learn more. If one is a busy lawyer, let’s say, who wants to know about music, what better way to learn than to listen to lectures and examples on the commute to and from work? Although I was a long way from commuting anywhere at the time, I was thoroughly sold on the idea by Professor Greenberg’s lecture series on music and opera.

Consequently I’ve got into the habit of finishing my day with two or three lectures. That may be every bit as eccentric as it sounds, yet it really does divert me from all of the miserable news of the day. I’ve tried various other diversions, but I can’t stomach most movies and I can only enjoy Sherlock Holmes mysteries again every five years or so. I don’t own a television set.

By now I’ve taken several music courses, some of which I will repeat, and courses in ancient history and archeology. It’s been fun and I did pick up tidbits here and there that I didn’t know, but the exercise has chiefly been interesting to me in picking out the professor’s bias, which I presume is politically correct in academe. For example, any subject touching on the lack of archeological evidence for some mythology is buried in rhetoric. Clearly there are some firm lines in the sand that cannot be crossed.

Most recently I finished an eighty-four lecture course with the formidable title, Great Minds of the Western Intellectual Tradition. Wow! This must be a big deal! It was a most diverting irritation from beginning to end. There are multiple professors lecturing, I assume within their specialty, about "philosophers" from the pre-socratics to the present day. The superficial subject was, universally, epistemology, that is, what constitutes knowledge, and how do you know when you’ve got it? But the real subject was how do we justify the State? Why must the "great minds" continually justify the state? That’s a good question. Why must they continually come at it from epistemology? That’s a better question. I’m not one of them so I don’t know, but I do recognize a confidence game in progress when I hear one.

Here I would appeal to anyone who has waded through Kuhn, Quine, Derrida, and Gouldner to tell me their native species and planet, because I do not recognize them as Homo Sapiens from planet Earth, regardless of their State sinecures. I recall being amused some years ago by an American President quibbling about what the meaning of "is" is, and I wondered where he got such a silly notion? Now I know.

Please accept that I am not criticizing The Teaching Company. They seem to find the best lecturers that they can. But if this is the best philosophy that academe has to offer then we are, indeed, as Nock concluded before I was born, neolithic barbarians on the road to self-destruction.

My next seminar is Ralph Raico’s History: The Struggle for Liberty from The Mises Institute. I’ve decided to stick to rational thinkers for the new year. After Dr. Raico I think I’ll take the whole course on Austrian economics. Just for fun. It’s become a habit.