Who Killed the Liberal Arts?



Here’s a tragedy, in its way, on the level
of King Lear or Hamlet. To get a bachelor’s degree in English literature
at the University of California at Los Angeles, one of the most prestigious colleges in America,
you must take courses in Gender, Race, Ethnicity, Disability or Sexuality Studies; in Imperial
Transnational or Post-Colonial Studies; and in Critical Theory. But you are not required
to take a single course in Shakespeare. In other words, the UCLA English faculty is
now officially indifferent as to whether an English major has ever read a word of the
greatest writer of the English language, but is determined to expose students, according
to the course catalogue, to “alternative rubrics of gender, sexuality, race, and class.”
Sadly, UCLA is not leading a movement; it is following one. That movement seeks to infuse the humanities
curriculum with the characteristic academic traits of our time: narcissism, an obsession
with victimhood, and a relentless determination to reduce the stunning complexity of the past
to identity and class politics. In so doing, the modern professoriate has
repudiated the great humanist tradition on which much of Western Civilization — and
the Western university — has been built. That tradition was founded on an all-consuming
desire to engage with the genius of the past. The 14th century Florentine poet Francesco
Petrarch triggered the explosion of knowledge known today as the Renaissance with his discovery
of Livy’s monumental history of Rome and the letters of Cicero, the Roman statesman
whose ideas would inspire the likes of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Petrarch’s burning drive to recover the
lost cultures of Greece and Rome was widely shared and propelled the Renaissance humanists
to search for long-forgotten manuscripts in remote castles and monasteries across Europe. The great universities spread this new knowledge
across the Western world, teaching it to students who in turn taught it to the next generation. Now compare the classical humanists’ hunger
for learning with the resentment of a Columbia University student, who had been required
by Columbia’s freshman core curriculum to study Mozart. “Why did I have to listen…to
this Mozart?” she complained. “My problem with the core is that it upholds the premises
of white supremacy and racism. There are no women, no people of color.” These are not the idiosyncratic thoughts of
one foolish student. They represent the dominant ideology in the humanities today. This student
learned to think like this at the university itself. Rather than encouraging students to engage with the great minds of the past, today’s
humanities professors seek only to confirm their own worldview. The annual gathering of America’s literature
faculty put at the top of its 2014 agenda the discussion of “embodiment, poverty,
climate, activism, reparation, and the condition of being unequally governed,” all in order
to “expose key sites of vulnerability and assess possibilities for change.” Lost in this political posturing is the only
true justification for the humanities — to provide: knowledge…knowledge leading, one
hopes, to the most important acquisition of all: wisdom.
The American founders drew on an astonishingly wide range of historical and philosophical
sources and on a healthy skepticism about human nature to craft the most stable and
free republic in world history. Ignorance of those sources, which led to the
West’s rule of law and its unparalleled prosperity, puts these unique and monumental
achievements at risk. But humanistic learning is above all an end in itself. It is simply better to escape one’s narrow,
self-centered mind and to live inside the prose of George Eliot, the music of Bach or
the art of van Dyck than never to have done so. Ultimately, it is the loving duty we owe those
writers, artists and thinkers whose works made our world possible. The academic narcissist, oblivious to beauty
and nobility, knows none of this. That’s bad enough, but to deny such glorious knowledge and wisdom to students? That’s a tragedy on a Shakespearian scale. I’m Heather Mac Donald of The Manhattan
Institute for Prager University.

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

  1. Good is rapidly losing to Evil today. They are absolutely teaching Marxism in public schools. It's in just about every textbook and the level of bias is insane. Almost all public school books today attempt to make America look like the worst country in the world and that is in public schools in Texas so you can imagine how bad it is in more liberal states.

  2. 1:45 Petrarch did not "start" the Renaissance he was just one of the great minds that "imported" the Golden age of knowledge from the Arab world. And Shakespeare did not write anything stop misinforming people. You just lost a subscriber.

  3. I miss old Shakespeare, he was a real artist, he wrote works like Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, MacBeth, and many others, and he had a passion for conflict, and a conflict for passion, he portrayed love as a dangerous game, one we must allow logic to still exist with, because without logic and only love, you could be driven insane, he was a great artist, a god, a transcendent being of the mind and soul.

  4. I am very sorry that I am not that good at English enough to understand the whole video but I could at least understand what she wanted to deliver to people who watch this video. It touched my mind.

  5. THAT TITLE GOT MY ATTENTION:"WHO KILLED THE LIBERAL ARTS?".BY COINCIDENCE,I GUESS,I CAME TO THINK,TODAY,THAT IT WAS GOOD THAT I HAD BEEN PUT IN "LIBERAL ARTS",WHEN I GOT TO THE USA.I DIDN'T EVEN KNOW WHAT I WAS GETTING INTO.I STILL DON'T EVEN KNOW WHOSE DECISION IT HAD BEEN.I JUST KNOW THAT MY UNCLE'S WIFE TOOK ME TO THE BOROUGH OF MANHATTAN COMMUNITY COLLEGE,AND,THUS,I BECAME A STUDENT OF BMCC.I BARELY COULD COMMUNICATE PROPERLY ORALLY,BUT I COULD WRITE AND READ ENGLISH FAIRLY WELL.AND,WHILE WRITING THE LINES ABOVE,I COCLUDED THAT,MAYBE,IT WAS A GOOD THING THAT I HAD A YEAR OF "LIBERAL ARTS",BEFORE DECIDING TO GET INTO THE MEDICAL FIELD,IN "RTT",RESPIRATORY THERAPY TECHNOLOGY.BUT FINANCIAL AID ENDED,AFTER A YEAR AND A HALF OF THAT PROGRAM,NOT AN EASY FIELD,WHICH I WAS ABLE TO BEAR NEVERTHELESS.MY FATHER,WHO WORKED AT NYU,AS AN ACCOUNTANT,WHEN I CALLED HIM AT HIS OFFICE,TO TELL HIM THE SOMBER NEWS,THE END OF FINANCIAL AID,HE SAID NOTHING.AND, WHEN HE CAME HOME,AT THE END OF THAT DAY,HE SAID NOTHING.SO,I SAID NOTHING.AFTERWARDS,I JUST TOOK A JOB IN A FACTORY,TO START THINGS ANEW.THAT WAS THE END OF MY STUDIES.SO,I'M NOT WHO'S TO SING THE PRAISES OF "LIBERAL ARTS",BUT,IN MYSELF,I'M GRATEFUL TO THAT PROGRAM.IT GAVE ME ENGLISH LITERATURE,CLASSICAL MUSIC,ART (DRAWING),AND WHAT ELSE? I NEEDED THOSE SORTS OF THINGS,FOR MY KIND OF PERSONNALITY.I FAILED,WITH SCHOOL,RIGHT?WELL,NOW,I'M TAKING CARE OF MY 96 YEAR OLD MOTHER (A VERY "DIFFICULT " PERSON).I GATHER I WAS SAVING MYSELF FOR THIS TASK,WITHOUT KNOWING IT.I FEEL GOOD ABOUT THAT,EVEN THOUGH PENNILESS.GO FIGURE,RIIGHT?…

  6. As an English major who has a passion for the classic Shakespearean works, this really saddens me. All my life, I wanted to be a writer and English professor for a university, but now it seems like the English arts are diminishing greatly. I will continue to be an English Major because I love writing and reading classic works and I still have a set career goal in mind, but it pains me that it seems that it has received such an unsavory reputation.

  7. Most schools still make you take the classics (as they are described in this video) in your first and second year. You might not be required to read Shakespeare, but any intro course prof will make you read it at some point. There is no way any Humanities student hasn't taken a class on Shakespeare. Just say you don't want people to read through the perspectives of others and go.

  8. So pretty much these university proffesors were the same hippie twats that grew up and are in charge now making current students think like them. So much for free thinking by forcing their stupidity on the sheep minded.

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