by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Mark Bauerlein writes for the Martin Center that university faculties deserve some of the blame for the decline of humanities within the university.
If you want to see one example of why a new populism has emerged in American universities in the last 10 years, take a look at a statement issued last week by the Association of University Professors and the Association of American Colleges and Universities. The incapacity of the experts and professionals who wrote the statement to understand why their own diminishment has happened is abundantly in evidence.
The motivation for the statement stems from the deterioration of the liberal arts in higher education. The statement puts it this way: “the disciplines of the liberal arts, once universally regarded as central to the intellectual life of the university, have been steadily moved to the periphery and increasingly threatened.” Note carefully the phrasing. We have a passive verb, “have been steadily moved,” implying an outside force has displaced the liberal arts. The liberal arts themselves, which is to say, the professors who administer them, have played no role in that marginalization. It’s somebody else’s fault. …
… Any mildly informed observer, however, realizes that the roster of guilty parties the statement compiles has a great big hole in the center: the teachers themselves. You can’t say that students have avoided the liberal arts without acknowledging that students avoid liberal arts professors. When administrators shut down Romance language departments and programs, they inevitably target Romance language teachers. You can’t divorce the liberal arts from the people who teach them. Their actions must, in some way, factor into the trends.