"Immersion in the life of the world, a willingness to be inhabited by and to speak for others, including those beyond the realm of the human, these are the practices not just of the bodhisattva but of the writer." --Jane Hirshfield

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Fear Ushers In a New Dark Age?

Louis Menand in the New Yorker:
The biggest undergraduate major by far in the United States today is business. Twenty-two per cent of bachelor’s degrees are awarded in that field. Eight per cent are awarded in education, five per cent in the health professions. By contrast, fewer than four per cent of college graduates major in English, and only two per cent major in history. There are more bachelor’s degrees awarded every year in Parks, Recreation, Leisure, and Fitness Studies than in all foreign languages and literatures combined. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, which classifies institutions of higher education, no longer uses the concept “liberal arts” in making its distinctions. This makes the obsession of some critics of American higher education with things like whether Shakespeare is being required of English majors beside the point. The question isn’t what the English majors aren’t taking; the question is what everyone else isn’t taking.

Are we headed for a new Dark Ages, driven by fear (of terrorists, poverty, high prices, not having a new iPod) and causing people to hunker down and make money to the exclusion of all else? What good is/was a "liberal arts" education? What ever happened to the joy of thinking? Or has that question always just been for people who could afford it. Of course it has, the issue is that we can afford it, but not if we allow ourselves to be driven by fear. What ever happened to electing a president who said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself— nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance."

What else FDR said.

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