Standards Decline as Colleges Reject Humanities

Tuesday, 10 Dec 2013 10:38 AM

By Herbert London

Share:
  Comment  |
   Contact Us  |
  Print  
|  A   A  
  Copy Shortlink
I often find myself in the odd position of addressing the question “why are the humanities disappearing?” In most instances my interrogators assume I will say something about the desire for vocational training in an environment where jobs are scarce. Clearly that is an answer, but a partial and unreflective response.
 
Based on my experience in the Academy over 35 years, I have noticed an evolutionary condition far more significant and far more malignant than the rise of vocational education.
 
For most of my academic life I resided in a place called Western Civilization. My leaders in this congenial home were Aristotle, Plato, Dante, Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Machiavelli, Mozart, and Rembrandt to name a few. My life, my views, were cultivated by these people and their work was imbibed as if mother’s milk. They weren’t always tranquil; in fact, on many occasions they were disquieting, but they were my “whole.”
 
They told me who I am, what I believe, and what questions about life I should ask. They were the guides in a complex, often dark world.
 
What happened to my ideational home? It was cast down a slide into fragmentation. There are scholars who will know about one or maybe two of these guides, but they no longer live in Western Civilization.
 
The common core is no longer common. The foundation of this home was a belief in the best that has been thought and written. Conditions that divide us such as class, gender, and race were subordinated to a common humanity, the glue that keeps a civilization intact.
 
Now the civilization is split at the seams, disappearing before our eyes as a weight falling into the sea. There isn’t a there, there. It is a civilization suffering from homelessness. What remains of the humanities are fragments, puzzle parts that don’t connect. How can a student possibly appreciate the civilization in which he resides when he sees only fragments, division, and needless specialization?
 
Each year that passes, newly minted Ph.D.'s enter the ranks of the professoriate with new, arcane specialties, e.g., did Hamlet suffer from an Oedipus complex? Were Know Nothing adherents paranoid? These questions in themselves are reasonable, but they overlook the sweep and depth of human experience.
 
Those who graduate into the Academy arrive never having lived in Western Civilization. The air they breathe is clear, but it doesn’t have the dusty reminiscence of the past, with its glories and failures, romances and betrayals, majesty and tyranny. They lack guides and perspective. Is it any wonder their students do not see value in the humanities?
 
Lying in wait is a time when business students will dominate the Academy completely. The model will be bureaucracy. Rules will be legion, but enlightenment foreign. Inspiration will be a concept long forgotten, as will the humanities themselves.
 
Although college students yearn for meaning, the drum beat of fragmentation continues apace. Narrow and narrower are the assignment of readings. Much of what is assigned has been pre-digested, i.e., read what Professor Jones wrote about Plato. Hence Plato doesn’t have to be read. Here is yet another manifestation of fragmentation. The whole is there, just largely ignored.
 
So when the question arises of why the humanities are disappearing from the curriculum, it should be noted that if we have lost a home in Western Civilization, the humanities cannot be taught effectively or understood by students. The catalog that refers to the humanities is mechanistic. There is a belief these courses may be necessary, but few can describe why this is the case. The defense rests.
 
Western Civilization is in retreat and the standards we once knew evaporate like soap bubbles. Fragmentation is all that is left and frankly that isn’t much to build a university on.
 
Herbert London is president emeritus of Hudson Institute and author of the books "The Transformational Decade" (University Press of America) and "Decline and Revival in Higher Education" (Transaction Books). Read more reports from Herbert London — Click Here Now.
 
 
 

© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Share:
  Comment  |
   Contact Us  |
  Print  
  Copy Shortlink
Around the Web
Join the Newsmax Community
>> Register to share your comments with the community.
>> Login if you are already a member.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
Email:
Retype Email:
Country
Zip Code:
 
Hot Topics
Follow Newsmax
Like us
on Facebook
Follow us
on Twitter
Add us
on Google Plus
Around the Web
You May Also Like

Morals, Shame Lacking in Society Today

Thursday, 27 Mar 2014 12:16 PM

Yes, there are positive conditions in this deeply degraded and dumbed-down culture. But they are hard to find. . . .

Georgetown Professor: Disregard the Constitution

Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 06:51 AM

A Georgetown University professor, Louis Michael Seidman, raises the question of whether we should obey the Constitution . . .

Jewish Museums Omit Recent Atrocities

Thursday, 20 Feb 2014 09:34 AM

Holocaust museums around the globe present in remarkably graphic form pre-war Nazi conditions that promoted anti-Semitis . . .

Newsmax, Moneynews, and Independent. American. are registered trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc. Newsmax TV, NewsmaxWorld, NewsmaxHealth, are trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc.

 
NEWSMAX.COM
America's News Page
©  Newsmax Media, Inc.
All Rights Reserved