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The decline of the liberal arts over the past decade has been attributed to everything from the flagging economy to apathetic students. But Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus think at least part of the blame should be put on professors :

If students are staying away from those classes, it’s not necessarily because they prefer practical training. Many times it’s because professors have subverted the subjects that once held pride of place on most campuses.

The liberal arts have been radically altered, both in format and function. The catalog labels are still recognizable: psychology, comparative literature, English and the like. But what is being taught is no longer attuned to undergraduates looking for a broader and deeper understanding of the world.

Consider Yale’s description of a course it offered that dealt with how disabilities are depicted in fiction: “We will examine how characters serve as figures of otherness, transcendence, physicality or abjection. Later may come examination questions on regulative discourse, performativity and frameworks of intelligibility.”

Classes like these suggest that professors are using the curriculum as their personal playgrounds. Harvard’s Harvey Mansfield worries that too many professors take the approach that “what they’re doing research on is exactly what students need to know.” As a result, freshmen are often addressed as if they were novitiate doctoral candidates, eager to imbibe the esoterica of academic disciplines. Courses should be created for the benefit of students, not as vehicles for faculty careers.

Read more . . .

(Via: Musings of a Christian Humanist )

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