Actions Have Consequences
It?s been twenty years since Allan Bloom published his lament over the state of higher education, ?The Closing of the American Mind.? A New York Times article confirms that the trend he saw has only intensified. Rachel Donadio writes that the traditional canon of Western literature and philosophy is largely absent on campus, replaced by less significant literature and political interpretations. ?The invasion of politics has been particularly notable in the literature curriculum,? she says, where literature is viewed ?through the lens of ?identity? ? ethnic, gender, class.?

What is strange is that the postmodernists, feminists, and multiculturalists who engineered this revolution don?t seem to understand what they destroyed. They are puzzled, even shocked, that the humanities don?t get the respect they once did. Martha Nussbaum, a philosopher who attacked Bloom?s book when it came out, now complains about the struggle to get ?adequate funding? for humanities departments; ?constant vigilance is required lest these disciplines be cut,? she says.

Academic humanists recognize that something was lost, but they don’t seem to know just what. Stanley Fish, the famous postmodernist head of Duke?s English department in the 1990s now believes that the ?invasion of political agendas? was ?extremely dangerous.?  Feminist Elaine Showalter admits that ?it?s time for a period of evaluation and consolidation.?

Odd. You destroy the canon ? the substance of liberal arts education ? and then you wonder why no one wants liberal arts education anymore.

(For more about the Fish era at Duke, see the Pope Center?s paper on the decline and revival of sanity at Duke.)