Why are students staying away from the liberal arts? While there are a lot of reasons why traditional liberal arts disciplines are no longer attracting large numbers of students, Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus suggest that professors may have something to do with it. Here is a taste of their recent op-ed in the Salt Lake Tribune:
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.
Ht: Joe Carter