so intricate as to defy acquisition through apprenticeship and should so challenge ingenuity

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Senior Member
Hi,everyone. The following is from John S. Brubacher, On the Philosophy of Higher Education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1982. p112.
Since sophistication is the badge of scholarship, the first ground rule of the scholarly ethic insists that all members of the guild of scholars must have prolonged training in a systematic aspect of the higher learning. This training should entail intellectual operations so intricate as to defy acquisition through apprenticeship and should so challenge ingenuity as to make no more than loose supervision advisable(Wilson, 1952, pp. 113-116)

I wonder how to understand the last sentence of the passage.If this is right:
The training requires intelligence operations that are so intricate that they cannot be acquired through apprenticeship (challenging apprenticeship) and requires so originality (challenging people's intelligence) that we can only recommend the use of loose supervision.
  • Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    Apprenticeships are one way of acquiring skills and knowledge, essentially by following someone and copying everything they do for several years (there is some formal teaching in apprenticeships, but in the 1950s their essential nature was doing what someone else did).

    "Intellectual operations" means things like calculations, logic and other forms of rational thought. "Intelligence operations" is something very different: the deployment of spies.

    You are correct that the intellectual operations are so complicated that they cannot be acquired through apprenticeship. The should be so ingenious (I cannot really see any other meaning of "so challenge ingenuity") that (as you say), only loose supervision is recommended. However, I cannot follow the reasoning between challenging ingenuity and loose supervision.

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    The author is being sarcastic in this sentence - isn't he?
    I think so, but "badge of scholarship" is the only real clue that see, and it is so difficult to judge sarcasm from just a few sentences in isolation. However, while I may agree his message is sarcastic, I would hesitate to say he is mocking in his use of language.


    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    It doesn't sound sarcastic to me, but the writer may be setting out a point of view that he doesn't agree with.

    I understand it as describing the difference between training in a subject, where the immediate transmission of factual knowledge from teacher to student is paramount, and intellectual development (education in a real sense), which is a process that involves mich more individual study under the supervision and guidance (and inspiration) of their teachers.


    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    the difficulty I have is with "ingenuity". Does it stand for "ingenious people"?
    I think it means that it ("this training") should challenge the ingenuity of the trainee, i.e. it should involve setting them non-trivial tasks which, to complete, will require them to use their noggin. They should not be spoon-fed, nor should there be too much hand-holding (hence "no more than loose supervision").
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