To Save the Humanities and Restore Their Prestige, Universities Might Look to Prison

There is no end to alarmism about the decline of the humanities in higher education, and, indeed, universities are eliminating programs with some regularity. A recent Chronicle of Higher Education headline screamed “The Humanities as We Know Them Are Doomed. Now What?”But not everyone thinks there is cause for worry. Some even shrug. In a Wall Street Journal piece, Adam Kirsch insists, “Universities are not responsible for, or capable of, creating a living humanistic culture. Scholarship is an important part of that culture but not its engine.” That’s certainly true, and it helps to distinguish the humanities from the sciences, whose engine is research. But then the sciences could flourish apart from universities as well, at least apart from the undergraduate portion of the universities.And the question about what should be taught in universities is primarily about what undergraduate students ought to study as part of a required general education or core curriculum. One of the peculiar features of our time is that universities have a very difficult time saying what it is that all students ought to study.   Continue reading...

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