Thursday, December 8, 2016

Windrip’s universities

In the new United States of Berzelius “Buzz” Windrip, scores of small private colleges are shut down, and state schools are “absorbed” into “central” universities. No Greek, Latin, Sanskrit, or Hebrew allowed. Philosophy and other subjects are taught only with new textbooks written under government supervision. As for modern languages and literature:

Sinclair Lewis, It Can’t Happen Here (1931).

At the university where I taught for thirty years, there is now talk of doing away with foreign-language study and philosophy (and much else). And “so-called ‘literature’” has become an increasingly peripheral element in English studies, with reading and writing about literary works no longer a part of the first-year composition sequence. One branding-minded faculty member has suggested that each of the university’s colleges pick some specialty and “market the hell out of it.” A claim to be a university, however, requires very different kinds of commitments.

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