Another academic disgrace: the debased requirements of UCLA's English major

Until recently, an undergraduate majoring in English at UCLA had to take one course in Chaucer, one in Milton, and two more in Shakespeare.  No more.  Now, their department simply requires four courses in different historical periods plus three of the following (copied from their website):

Breadth (one course is required in three of the four areas below)

Courses offered in Winter 2014:

Gender, Race, Ethnicity, Disability, and Sexuality Studies

Imperial, Transnational, and Postcolonial Studies 

Genre Studies, Interdisciplinary Studies, Critical Theory

Creative Writing (enrollment in any creative writing course is by application only)

As an academic myself, I can say that UCLA's requirements don't surprise me.

The University of Chicago's "common core" in the social sciences recently instituted a sequence in gender studies that allows students who choose it to avoid reading the Federalist Papers, Adam Smith, Emile Durkheim, Max Weber, etc.  I was the only opponent to the change.  The reason: the whole point of the social science core is to expose students to those towering achievements.

Let me be clear: I am not opposing courses on race and gender.  They should be offered in a modern curriculum.  What I oppose is (1) the exclusion, diminution, and often degregation of core intellectual achievements of Western civilization; (2) the inclusion of highly-politicized courses that serve partly to mobilize opponents of liberal education and partly to allow students to skip what should be central elements of their instruction.

Charles Lipson is a professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago

Until recently, an undergraduate majoring in English at UCLA had to take one course in Chaucer, one in Milton, and two more in Shakespeare.  No more.  Now, their department simply requires four courses in different historical periods plus three of the following (copied from their website):

Breadth (one course is required in three of the four areas below)

Courses offered in Winter 2014:

Gender, Race, Ethnicity, Disability, and Sexuality Studies

Imperial, Transnational, and Postcolonial Studies 

Genre Studies, Interdisciplinary Studies, Critical Theory

Creative Writing (enrollment in any creative writing course is by application only)

As an academic myself, I can say that UCLA's requirements don't surprise me.

The University of Chicago's "common core" in the social sciences recently instituted a sequence in gender studies that allows students who choose it to avoid reading the Federalist Papers, Adam Smith, Emile Durkheim, Max Weber, etc.  I was the only opponent to the change.  The reason: the whole point of the social science core is to expose students to those towering achievements.

Let me be clear: I am not opposing courses on race and gender.  They should be offered in a modern curriculum.  What I oppose is (1) the exclusion, diminution, and often degregation of core intellectual achievements of Western civilization; (2) the inclusion of highly-politicized courses that serve partly to mobilize opponents of liberal education and partly to allow students to skip what should be central elements of their instruction.

Charles Lipson is a professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago

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