One of the many academic journals I receive is the Intercollegiate Review. It is published by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. I believe they have been publishing this journal since 1953 — but I could be wrong. The institute is pretty conservative. Case in point: The above issue that just arrived on my campus desk ran a piece on the changing tide of academic studies. The author noted that schools — particularly universities — once served as the model for academic excellence. Students sought to be more well-rounded. They had a greater investment in their education and were intellectually curious. Thus, it was not unheard of for a business major to study the American Revolution; psychology majors took courses in the studies of Shakespeare and Milton; future politicians thumbed through the King James Bible. I will admit, I agree with the author in that a tide has shifted students away from being seekers to just being done. A few years ago, I was asked to be the keynote speaker at Houston Christian’s National Honor Society Induction Ceremony. In my speech, I stated that W.E.B. Du Bois used the term “the talented tenth” to describe the likelihood of one in ten blacks becoming leaders of their race in the world, through methods such as continuing their education, writing books, or becoming directly involved in social change. He believed they needed an education to reach their true destiny as what would in the 20th century be called public intellectuals. Du Bois stated:
We shall have only as we make manhood the object of the work of the schools — intelligence, broad sympathy, knowledge of the world that was and is, and of the relation of men to it — this is the curriculum of that Education which must underlie true life. On this foundation we may build bread winning, skill of hand and quickness of brain, with never a fear lest the child and man mistake the means of living for the object of life.
I do sense that society has shifted away from training people to be thinkers; in truth, it appears that we are training people to make money. And, I suspect that is the direction of the modern economy. Here is where I disagree with the premise of the article: It blamed the radicalism of the 1960s for destroying the traditional cannon of knowledge taught on campuses across the country. It ridiculed the notion that single-sex schools vanished. Now, in this new age, schools are teaching courses on gender and sexuality. Race and culture courses now dominate history, English, and political science departments. I suspect the author feels that the academy should reflect the white man theory on education. Forget about changing demographics and pluralism. Though the author makes a number of great points…as I noted above, I feel the attack on changing group dynamics as reflected in academic curricula is silly.
Here are a few courses being taught at various universities that the author took aim at:
Yale University — Humanities and Arts Requirement: US Lesbian and Gay History
University of Texas — Science Requirement: Animal Sexuality
College of Holy Cross — Religion Requirement: Gardens and World Religions
I must point out that I do not know if the above courses are really required; I am simply stating what I read in this journal piece. I would not be shocked to learn that this is all for shock value.
I would love to get your thoughts on this.