I just finished a trip to Honduras with some of the best students I have ever known. We traveled over air, sea, and land to get to La Cieba to work with children and provide a workshop dealing with Entrepreneurship. It was a wonderful week in a wonderful country with wonderful people.
When I returned I was able to read several copies of the Wall Street Journal and my local newspaper. They were so many wonderful articles that motivated my thought processes that I just did not know where I should start my blogging. That was until I read what is happening at UCLA. It appears that prior to 2011 students majoring in English were required to take one course in Chaucer, two in Shakespeare, and one in Milton, all cornerstones of English literature. However, the junior faculty “revolted” against this requirement because these writers were all part of the Empire, implication evil empire.
This is nothing new, other colleges and Universities had already gone down this road, but UCLA’s “English Department was one of the last champions of the historically informed study of great literature, uncorrupted by an ideological overlay.” According to Heather Mac Donald, “The UCLA coup represents the characteristic academic traits of our time: narcissism, an obsession with victimhood, and the relentless determination to reduce the stunning complexity of the past to the shallow categories of identity and class politics.” What we have done is disassociated ourselves with the past. Instead of dialoging with the past to glean its positives and negatives in order to create a more positive future, we now say the past is invalid due to its colonial nature, thus having no value in today’s world.
For me this is problematic. How can we say the great English literature of the past has no relevance today, and instead replace it with Gender, Race, Ethnicity, Disability and Sexual Studies? I am not saying do away with these new areas of study, but I am saying that the displacement of Shakespeare by reading modern feminist literature seems counter productive, especially if one is an English major. I say read both, but don’t throw the past away.
This mentality seems to reflect a narrow and polemic view of modern society, which may be our biggest issue. Why should I listen to the old composers of the music in the past when the urban music of today is the only thing relevant? This is even reflected in the church today. All we sing in church are the modern choruses and forget the rich hymns of the past. They are not relevant anymore.
Maybe this is why many college students no longer see college as worth it. College is no longer analyzing our current society in relationship to our past. College is no longer seeking knowledge; it is only seeking the technical detail we need to get a job. College has become a practical online endeavor that is to be accomplished as quickly as possible so we don’t have to continue to learn. We purchase a degree, and then we get a high paying job. That is what we expect. The past, where we would spend painstaking hours researching and thinking have been replaced with an App.
The Humanities issue is not the problem, but it is a symptom of what is the problem. We have become a society addicted to immediate fulfillment of any desire we have. Immediate gratification is what we require. I only need to study those subjects that reinforce my preconceived victimhood. We are a consumptive society seeking to fulfill personal needs as quickly as possible. The traditional way of thinking about college has been replaced, and to me this seems to be a tragedy.
And that is my thought for today, as I fly to Maui.