liberal arts

4 philosophers

Defending a Debased Version of the Liberal Arts

Two college associations are purporting to defend the liberal arts, the areas of study that undergird higher education in Western history and educate society about universal principles essential for a free person to know to participate in civic life. The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) […]

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The Age of Liberal Education Is Ending

America’s universities are collapsing into a miasma of postmodernism and multiculturalism. They have been approaching peak radicalization for several decades now, but in recent years the cultural left has pushed toward a complete takeover of our campuses. A hyper “political correctness”—with trigger warnings, safe spaces, micro-aggressions, censorship, and sometimes even physical violence—has enveloped our universities. […]

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The Liberal Arts Can’t Fix Higher Education

For the past two autumns the two leading academic reform organizations, the National Association of Scholars (NAS) and the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA), have held events offering high praise to the liberal arts as a means to improve students’ writing and to provide them with the classical culture that Mathew Arnold calls […]

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Jacques Barzun, 1907-2012

“Full of years.” I am not sure I know of anyone who better qualified for that Biblical epithet than Jacques Barzun, who died last week at the magnificent age of 104.  Born in France in 1907, Barzun had been a presence on the American intellectual and academic scene since the 1950s. From his perch at […]

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Pleasure Island

The kids! The boys! They’re all donkeys! – Jiminy Cricket Beloit College recently released its annual “Mindset List,” the findings of a yearly survey which attempts to take stock of the cultural touchstones that each generation of college freshman is, or is not, familiar with. Most of the observations are benign: “They can’t picture people […]

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Universities Are Vocational Schools

Why do students go to college? A new poll has a one-word answer: money. That’s one of the findings in a broad Gallup survey of college admissions officers done for Inside Higher Ed. The admissions officers seem to believe that those planning to attend college view it largely as a signaling device that directs the best […]

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Capitalism and Western Civilization: Liberal Education

Speaking of business and management majors, Douglas Campbell and James E. Fletcher argue in A Better Way to Educate Professionals that their students “should have a strong base in the traditional liberal arts and the physical sciences….to effectively work with people to understand and solve problems as well as to accomplish individual, organizational, and social goals.” […]

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How ‘Money Men’ Hijacked a Famous College

Crossing the snow-covered Dartmouth green one night, I stopped, looked around, and asked, “Who owns this place, and by what right?” More than half a century later, I have still not resolved a complete answer to that question. But I can give you my short-form response: A small group of willful people, mostly money men […]

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A Chat with Andrew Hacker

(The following is a transcript of a new podcast) JOHN LEO: I’m John Leo, Editor of Minding the Campus, and I’m here today with Professor Andrew Hacker, the well-known sociologist and public intellectual and author of many excellent reviews in New York Review of Books. He’s also the co-author, with Claudia Dreifus, of the recent […]

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Academic Articles–Expensive and Mostly Unread

At research universities and many liberal arts colleges, too, it is universally assumed that research is an unadulterated good.  Research keeps professors fresh in their fields, makes them better teachers, and raises intellectual standards for departments.  Who would disagree? In conversations about research in my world of the humanities, though, one doesn’t often hear about one […]

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Three Cheers for Useless Education

Several years ago Harper’s Magazine ran two articles on “The Uses of Liberal Education.” One article, subtitled “As a weapon in the hands of the restless poor,” was written by Earl Shorris, and describes how poor and underprivileged members of our society were eager to study the great books and benefited from them. He devised a […]

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How Much Is Western Civ Valued on Campus?

Not far into an important book published recently is a table displaying results for one question on the North American Academic Study Survey, a poll of professors, administrators, and students administered in 1999.  The survey is the basis for The Still Divided Academy by the late-Stanley Rothman, April Kelly-Roessner, and Matthew Roessner, which reviews the results and draws balanced conclusions.  […]

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Why Don’t Progressives Support U.S. History for Freshmen?

Herb London and KC Johnson have already posted on the disappointing findings of the ACTA project What Will They Learn? But it is worth pondering some of the implications of the report.  One of the more striking of them is the “Slightly less than 20% [of colleges surveyed] require U.S. government or history.”  As KC […]

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After Graduation, Get a Job Immediately, or Else

One of the frequent complaints one hears from humanities professors and figures in the “softer” social sciences is that students and a growing number of higher education officials, consultants, and commentators regard college more and more as a job-training program.  While driving across the country this week, I heard Rush Limbaugh declare that the only […]

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Religion on Campus, Then and Now

                           By Jonathan B. Imber Until 1969, on the campus where I teach, all students were required to take two semester s of Bible, which made the Department of Religion a central force in the life of the institution.  When I arrived twelve years later, with no Bible requirement any longer in place, the only remnant […]

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Another Blow to the Humanities

The Chronicle of Higher Education has published the results of

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No Comeback for the Humanities

Here is a story from the Baton Rouge Advocate that confirms the decline of the humanities in the state system (although cuts struck deep into the sciences and education as well).  Officials reviewed hundreds of programs in state colleges and universities, judging them by, among other things, the number of students they graduated each year.  […]

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Free speech censored

What Characterizes the Modern Totalitarian, Corporatized University?

In Savannah, Georgia, an ambitious experiment in higher education is under way. Ralston College aims to offer a back-to-basics liberal arts experience , stripped of the amenities and assumptions of the modern university. Though just now getting off the ground–it has yet to accept student applications–its stated mission is clear. Students will experience rigorous coursework […]

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Politics and the Demise of the Humanities

“But when humanism became the servant of the political or university establishment it lost its vitality and, indeed, its credibility…          Willem Frijhoff discussing 16th century humanism in           A History of the University, Vol. II (Cambridge U Press), p. 45                        […]

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A Terrible Time for New Ph.D.s

“If I don’t succeed in academe, I’ll die!” So read the anguished headline of a Jan. 23 cri de coeur to Salon magazine’s advice columnist, Cary Tennis. The writer was a woman who had apparently spent eight years acquiring a Ph.D. in anthropology, plus another seven years trying unsuccessfully to get an entry-level tenure-track professor’s […]

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‘Defend the Humanities’–A Dishonest Slogan

College foreign language and literature programs have been in decline for some time, first shrinking, then being consolidated with other departments, and now in a growing number of cases actually closed down. But the recent decision to eliminate French, Italian, Russian and Classics at SUNY Albany appears to have struck a nerve, and caused an […]

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An Omen for the Humanities Everywhere?

The news circulating among humanities professors across the country is the decision by SUNY-Albany to close programs in Classics, French, Italian, Russian, and Theatre. (Judaic Studies, too, has been virtually eliminated and journalism will be cut in half.) The general dismay is palpable, but faculty members should prepare for more of the same in the […]

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This Is a Bold New Plan for Higher Ed?

Mark C. Taylor’s Crisis on Campus: A Bold Plan for Reforming Our Colleges and Universities (Knopf) is neither as bold nor as innovative as he would like us to believe. What purports “to begin a national conversation about transforming our institutions of higher learning” merely continues the postmodern assault on higher learning that began in […]

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The Cave-Dwellers of Shimer

On 19 April, the board of trustees of Shimer College in Chicago, by an 18 to 16 vote, ousted Dr. Thomas Lindsay from the presidency after little more than a year of service. For sixty years, tiny Shimer (about ten faculty and 100 students) has touted itself as a Great Books college on the Robert […]

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Why the Great Books Are the Answer

In his recent essay, “Why the Great Books Aren’t the Answer,” Patrick Deneen is correct about many things. He is correct to criticize conservative supporters of great books like Allan Bloom and William Bennett who see them as a throwback to the “good old days” of liberal education. He is correct to point out the […]

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Why the Great Books Aren’t the Answer

For several decades, conservative critics of higher education have argued against trends toward the elimination of “core” curricula and with equal ferocity against their replacement by “distribution requirements” or even open curricula. They have, in particular, defended a curriculum in “Great Books,” those widely-recognized texts in the Western tradition authored by the likes of Plato, […]

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Is Education Just Training?

When talking with prospective students who are thinking about attending college, I often engage in a bit of “bait and switch.” Many of them are interested in jobs that will come for them after college and so they look at what college is about in almost functional terms. “What job will I be able to […]

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Yearning For Great Books

As the senior class of Yale College prepares for its final semester and reflects on the Bright College Years so swiftly gliding by, I have heard one phrase repeated with surprising frequency: “I wish I had done Directed Studies.” It’s a statement that doesn’t accord with the stereotype of Yale seniors as either careerists shaking […]

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The University Of Chicago – What’s Been Lost

The University of Chicago met widespread national opposition ten years ago after it instituted a new, less demanding core curriculum to make way for more electives. It was part of a plan to make the curriculum significantly less demanding (more “fun”) to attract more students and improve the school’s bottom line. Instead of 21 required […]

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Why Do Humanities Profs Complain?

Spend some time among humanities researchers and it won’t be long before you hear complaints about lack of support. They grumble that while the sciences have countless sources and billions of dollars pouring into their labs and clinics and field work, the humanities have NEH, a smattering of foundations giving fellowships, a handful of humanities […]

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