The Liberal Arts Weren’t Murdered — They Committed Suicide

The Liberal Arts Weren’t Murdered — They Committed Suicide, by Victor Davis Hanson.

The tragedy, then, is not just that a campus of the University of Wisconsin would drop the history major but that the custodians of history in the 21st century lost the ability to teach and write about history in a way that sustains a hallowed 2,500-year tradition. …

What is being jettisoned is likely not just history as we once understood it but rather de facto poorly taught “-studies” courses — which sadly become snapshots of particular (and often small) eras of history — designed to offer enough historical proof of preconceived theories about contemporary modern society. The students then are assumed by the course’s end to be outraged, persuaded, galvanized, and shocked in politically acceptable ways. Usually they are just bored, as supposedly with-it professors endlessly regurgitate the esoterica picked up in graduate schools.

Of course, not all historians see the past as an orthodox way of fixing the present, but enough do to discourage students, especially when younger faculty members draw on their rather specialized doctoral theses or narrow journal-article expertise to drive home an agenda that seems preachy or proselytizing to naturally resistant young spirits.

To the Millennial mind, calcified Sixties-era radicalism is about as edgy as once was the Stalinist 1930s Old Left sermonizing to the Woodstock crowd. Trendiness that once pleased faculty committees and careerist deans did not always please students, and therefore the result is now not so pleasing to faculty committees and careerist deans.

Once a student has signed up for a class on the Renaissance or the Great Depression and quickly learns that it can become a periodic harangue on the oppression and victimization of particular marginalized groups, she will likely not wish to repeat the experience on money borrowed at between 5 and 7 percent interest, or to be convinced that her future employer wishes to be woke by a heady 21-year-old.