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Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Decline of the Humanities

It is a quanitifiable fact that humanities* education in American Universities is in free fall. The reasons for this are legion but William M. Chace does an astounding job of explaining them all and offering a few alternatives in this article in The American Scholar. Chace has been a professor at Berkeley, Stanford, Wesleyan, and Emory and served as President at the last two and has around 40 years experience in higher education.

Chace makes a great case for the continuation and importance of English education in American higher learning by focusing on the books themselves and the myriad things that can be learned by critical analysis of the canon of Great Books in the English tradition.

It's sort of strange that I would read this article so close to finishing Alan Jacobs' phenomenal study of C.S. Lewis, The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C.S. Lewis. Lewis had similar views on the importance of studying the Great English canon. He felt that literature was a function of language, and since language was so fully intertwined with thought, the only way to understand humanity** was to read, understand, and have a dialogue with these great books.

If you have the time I suggest that you read both Chace's article and Jacobs' biography of C.S. Lewis. They both have a tremendous bearing on the future of the humanities in America.

You can read William Chace's article here.

*Humanities being a catch-all term for English, History, Geography, etc.
**Or at least Western humanity.

4 comments:

Mister Booze said...

I don't believe in the Humanities anymore. I advise people not to study them. It is a waste of time and money. One would be better served with a library card. Invest your time and money into something useful like actuary, claims adjuster, notary public, paralegal, x ray technician, etc. I wish I would have done that. What a fool I was to listen to my parents...

The Crow said...

Awww, it'll be ok, buddy. I think the key is to go into anything with as much info as you can gather and keep your eyes wide open. It's hard to do that when you are an undergrad.

Mister Booze said...

I won't be ok. I am 30...

The Crow said...

Most great men don't achieve their greatness until they are deep into their thirties. We Americans are infatuated with the young and callow, but the truth is that great men are made later in life.