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  • Originally published 06/24/2013

    Verlyn Klinkenborg: The Decline and Fall of the English Major

    Verlyn Klinkenborg has taught writing at Fordham, St. Olaf, Bennington, and Harvard, among other universities....In 1991, 165 students graduated from Yale with a B.A. in English literature. By 2012, that number was 62. In 1991, the top two majors at Yale were history and English. In 2013, they were economics and political science. At Pomona this year, they were economics and mathematics.Parents have always worried when their children become English majors. What is an English major good for? In a way, the best answer has always been, wait and see — an answer that satisfies no one. And yet it is a real answer, one that reflects the versatility of thought and language that comes from studying literature. Former English majors turn up almost anywhere, in almost any career, and they nearly always bring with them a rich sense of the possibilities of language, literary and otherwise....STUDYING the humanities should be like standing among colleagues and students on the open deck of a ship moving along the endless coastline of human experience. Instead, now it feels as though people have retreated to tiny cabins in the bowels of the ship, from which they peep out on a small fragment of what may be a coastline or a fog bank or the back of a spouting whale.

  • Originally published 02/06/2013

    William J. Barber II amd Tim Tyson: McCrory’s Intellectual Dead End

    Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II is president and Dr. Tim Tyson is education chair of the N.C. State Conference of NAACP Branches. ...“You got to throw the corn down where the hogs can get to it,” Georgia race-baiter Gov. Eugene Talmadge used to crow. In much the same spirit, North Carolina’s new governor appeared on William Bennett’s nationally-syndicated radio program last week and sneered at the UNC system for “offering courses that have no chance of getting people jobs.”Bennett seems an odd assistant to help McCrory toss those stale hushpuppies to the tea party. The former secretary of education usually bemoans the failure of today’s youth to read Aristotle. The author of “The Book of Virtues” admits to losing something like $10 million in the casinos and he once speculated that even though it would be wrong for America to abort all African American babies, “the crime rate would go down.”

  • Originally published 02/04/2013

    Lisa Levenstein: NC Governor McCrory’s Education Decree is Misguided

    Lisa Levenstein teaches history at UNC Greensboro.On Tuesday, Gov. Pat McCrory vowed to change the system of public higher education in North Carolina. Instead of educating students broadly in the liberal arts, he wants universities and community colleges to train students narrowly for existing jobs in fields such as “mechanics.”“We are offering courses that have no chance of getting people jobs,” McCrory told conservative radio talk-show host Bill Bennett, disparaging subjects such as philosophy for providing students with inadequate skills.Unlike the governor, many Americans value a liberal arts education for teaching critical-thinking and communication skills through the study of the arts, social sciences, natural sciences and humanities. As students read great literature, investigate scientific problems, learn foreign languages, analyze data, scrutinize historical artifacts and study global cultures, they acquire tools that foster lifelong learning and promote engaged and responsible citizenship....