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Are the classics making a comeback on college campuses?

In the Wall Street Journal , Katherine Mangu-Ward looks at the return of western civ.

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  1. Ouch! Harvard is the la-di-da sissy school whose motto is “Veritas” (or “Truth”). Yale’s motto (and I definitely had to look this up) is “Forsan et haec olim meminisse juvabit,” a quotation from Vergil’s Aeneid, meaning “Someday, perhaps, it will be pleasant to remember all this,” which is a pretty funny motto for a college, when you stop to think about it. (Go to if you don’t believe me.)

    For my own part, I went to Oberlin, whose motto was “Where are we now?” And, for the record, I think Allan Bloom is seriously overrated. U.S. higher education is easily the best in the world. As for American democracy, well, we did elect George W twice, and the second time honestly. Would Allan be up with that? (Everything except the “War on Queers” part, I’m guessing.)

  2. “Everything except the “War on Queers” part, I’m guessing”

    That war on queers has been hell. The little suckers can really run and blend in well to their surroundings. Tough to get a shot off on them.

    When you say rediculous hyperbole like that, it is difficult to take anything else you say too seriously.

  3. I was an English major in the dark years of the early 90s and yet still my shelves are laden with Shakespeare, Pope, Goethe, Milton and Plato. There was no shortage of “classics” in my “liberal” education.

  4. I think this is a great idea. Many new ideas in education are based on, to be nice, laughable foundations. Going back to the classics can only help and inform the debate on college campuses. While this whole movement may smell like an attempt to “righten up” or “conservatize” the universities, it really just adds more views. Who knows, it may even lead to electing better presidents.

  5. Whoa – there was a war on queers? How did I miss that?

    The forces of Bushitler must have lost, then, because the queers seem to be occupying the choice urban real estate here in Dallas.

  6. I was a physics major in college and my shelves are also laden with Shakespeare, Goethe, Milton, and Plato but, admittedly, lacks Pope. Most of my non-liberal arts major friends are likewise well-read. I believe that our intellectual curiousity is what prompts us to have read so widely.

    OTOH, my shelves also contain classics by such masters as Newton, Maxwell, Gauss, Clausius, Darwin, Einstein, Watson, Crick, Godel, von Newman, et al (restricting the list to Western luminaries), mostly as the result of my own curiousity.

    I assert that unmotivated, uninterested liberal arts and science majors alike are likely less well-read in both the arts and the sciences. Educational experience isn’t the only barrier to a well-read public. The desire to learn and grow is much more important than what book your 400-level Literture/Philosophy class professor assigned in grooming a worldly, well-rounded populace.

  7. Not to mention, establishing a pool of a rational, logical voting body who can actually identify qualified presidential candidates.

  8. strike “pool of a”

    Preview, preview, preview…

  9. Pi Guy: I agree with your posts. Since there is already a focus on the classics in most colleges, I have to assume that this whole thing is a cover for right-wing historical revisionism.

  10. I believe that our intellectual curiousity is what prompts us to have read so widely.

    The funny thing is, I think the lack of a classics curriculum is actually the result of an increasingly open, free market in higher education. When a student (or their parents) is paying tens of thousands of dollars a year, the school is going to do everything they can to make sure that person doesn’t a) fail out or b) transfer. You don’t want to read Plato? Then how about a Science Fiction course? Don’t like Shakespeare? Then what about a Film class?

    Any decent university is going to have plenty of faculty that would be happy to spend hours discussing William Blake, but few are going to force students to listen anymore.

    Conservatives may bristle at that, but Libertarians should rejoice.

  11. I think this article should have been researched a bit more. I work in academe, and I consider myself to the right of just about everyone I work with (this is not too hard to do, though the liberal bias attacks are almost always dishonest). These ‘centers’ are certainly not a solution to academe’s problem but a sign of worse to come. Go on over and check out Robert George’s center’s website: it essentially invites dogmatically conservative speakers (and almost all from a Straussian background, a narrow yet incestous conservative academic subset, though not the boogeyman cabal they are often depicted as.) A center of conservative scholars supported by conservative ideologues/philanthropists is as counter to academic values as the Marxist motivated lit profs are. They seek to replace leftist ideologues with their own,and I can tell you many conservative scholars are just fine with such a replacement, thank you very much. They cloak this in reverence for ‘classics.’ But they also don’t mind ignoring many ‘classics’ (after all, Marx is now a classic of the Western tradition).

  12. The funny thing is, I think the lack of a classics curriculum is actually the result of an increasingly open, free market in higher education.

    Some free market where the government owns 2/3rds of the industry and subsidizes the other third.

    – Josh

  13. @ Alan Vanneman,

    Less “ouch” here than you think – Mangu-Ward was obviously referring to the motto on the Yale coat of arms: “Lux et veritas” (light and truth).

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