At Yale, English majors have called for the abolition of the core curriculum:  the Major English Poets, who include Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, et al.  Heather Mac Donald and Jay agree Heather-McDonald-Manhattan-Institute-e1437937997277-620x433that this is a tragedy – and an outrage.  Ms. Mac Donald is particularly well placed to speak about this, because she was an English major at Yale:  and got the good stuff.  Students today ought not to be deprived of it – by themselves or others.

This is the topic of an impassioned, Englishy, musicky “Q&A.”

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There are 19 comments.

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  1. TeeJaw Inactive

    Too bad they don’t know that many great authors and poets who are not white men were inspired by the dead white men Yale English majors want to dump from their curriculum. Many non-white non-western authors and poets would think the Yale students are nuts.  Chaucer, Shakespeare and Milton are widley read today in non-western countries. I once heard a great lecture on James Joyce’s Ulysses by a visiting author from China. He said many of his Chinese collegues consider it one of the most important books in the world.

    • #1
  2. Duke Member

    I do appreciate classics and philosophy etc., but I somehow feel funny when I hear people passionately defend them – humanities I mean. What I think bothers me, is that such education has no clear end in sight, unless propped up by ethics/religion. You can enjoy Shakespeare and derive pleasure from him, but not once did I hear someone becoming a saint, so to speak, because of classics oriented education. And that is what matters – to me. I would love to hear where someone is coming from, because reading classics may be less harmful than “lesbian dance theory” or whatnot, yet I doubt the benefits unless you have a clear ethical goal.

    • #2
  3. RightAngles Member

    We ask that Major English Poets be abolished, and that the pre-1800/1900 requirements be refocused to deliberately include literatures relating to gender, race, sexuality, ableism, and ethnicity.  

    “Ableism”? “Queer folk”? It’s impossible to parody these thistle-brained little air bunnies. Thanks to the silly majors of Women’s Studies and the various ethnic studies, too many universities have already been doing this for years. They scrape the bottom of the literary barrel for second- and third-rate writers to teach, not because they stood the test of time or were even good, but because they check a required box. As if they don’t already have great women and minority writers to read. Writers whose work has survived because they were actually good writers. But go ahead, Yale. See how long you last if you do this. Don’t forget to change your name to Eloi University.

    • #3
  4. Stad Coolidge

    I didn’t really appreciate Shakespeare that much until I listened to all the Shakespeare course from The Great Courses.  Not only do I now love good ol’ Bill, but I realize how important his work is to Western Civilization, as well as Milton, Chaucer, et al.

    Liberals won’t admit it, but Dead White Males have set high standards in art, literature, and music.  Nonetheless, there have been women and minorities who have met and exceeded those standards.  But this isn’t good enough for the Left.

    I feel the liberals’ elimination of Shakespeare from the college curriculum is analogous to the elmination of keeping score in kids’ sports.  Liberals want to get rid of standards, be they absolute (the works of Dead White Males) or relative (the score).

    I hope they fail, but they will succeed if we don’t fight back.

    • #4
  5. Paul Dougherty Member
    Paul Dougherty

    This would make the grounds for an amazing lawsuit against Yale for subjecting Ms. MacDonald to her oppressive education. Imagine forcing Yale to apologize, or better still, defend the practice of teaching the great works of Western culture.

    • #5
  6. Jim Beck Inactive
    Jim Beck

    Afternoon Duke,

    I think you might like this article on Macbeth by Theodore Dalrymple

    I think the article suggests that it is through art that we can learn about the nature of man and about the problems man has when he has choice and power.  We are currently suffering because our culture has lost its understanding of human nature and the boundaries our nature places upon us.

    • #6
  7. Duke Member

    Hello, Jim,

    I will surely have a look, thank you!

    • #7
  8. Eugene Kriegsmann Member
    Eugene Kriegsmann

    In Need to Know Mona mentioned that she is reading Jung Chang’s Wild Swans. In it and Chang’s Mao there is a very clear comparison to what is happening at Yale, the rise of the Red Guard. This anti-culture is very much related to the same lunatic, leftist nihilism that drove the Red Guard. They may be using the excuses provided by Black Lives Matter and other so-called advocacy groups, but at the heart of it is the leftist desire to completely overthrow western culture.

    BTW, What a marvelous lady is Ms MacDonald! Brilliant!

    • #8
  9. Petty Boozswha Inactive
    Petty Boozswha

    I am so sad for our country.How did we get away from this?
    “I sit with Shakespeare, and he winces not. Across the color line I move arm and arm with Balzac and Dumas, where smiling men and welcoming women glide in gilded halls. From out of the caves of evening that swing between the strong-limbed Earth and the tracery of stars, I summon Aristotle and Aurelius and what soul I will, and they come all graciously with no scorn nor condescension. So, wed with Truth, I dwell above the veil. Is this the life you grudge us, O knightly America? Is this the life you long to change into the dull red hideousness of Georgia? Are you so afraid lest peering from this high Pisgah, between Philistine and Amalekite, we sight the Promised Land?”

    W.E.B. Dubois

    Edit: I posted this before listening to the whole podcast.

    • #9
  10. RightAngles Member

    Stad: Not only do I now love good ol’ Bill, but I realize how important his work is to Western Civilization, as well as Milton, Chaucer, et al.

    Not only that, but he left such an impact on the English language. So many expressions we still use today, including:

    -lay it on with a trowel

    -a rose by any other name

    -wild goose chase

    -seen better days

    -green-eyed monster

    -forever and a day

    -love is blind

    -break the ice

    And so many more. We are under siege by un-American forces in the process of erasing our history and our culture. They are actually conducting purges along the lines of Mao and the old Soviet Union, right before our eyes. I’ve never been more frightened.

    • #10
  11. Freesmith Member

    I am 100% in favor of the position taken by the low IQ affirmative action students and their craven accessories in the faculty and administration.

    Who needs Shakespeare when you can read Junot Diaz? Who needs “Middlemarch” when you can read “Song of Solomon?”

    In 1975 GM laughed at Honda, the Soviet Union was America’s geopolitical rival, TWA and Pan Am ruled the skies and IBM was our foremost computer company. And Harvard, Yale and Stanford were the most prestigious colleges in the country.

    Everything else has changed – disappeared, gone bankrupt or fallen back into the pack. Everything except the citadels where the elite reproduce.

    It’s time for that to change too. More power to the students!

    • #11
  12. Freesmith Member

    Jay, here’s an opportunity for you to put your principles to use. Go up to Yale and counter the noxious ideas which currently reign on that campus. Inspire them with the good, the true and the beautiful, with the best that our culture has produced. As Heather said, “this is the most important thing,” the struggle of our lifetimes.

    And when you fail, when you are laughed off the campus, or worse, when your principled arguments persuade no one and you realize you and they are impotent, perhaps then you’ll see the bankruptcy of being a proponent not of Western hierarchical values, but of deracinated universal norms that do not exist.

    • #12
  13. Stad Coolidge

    RightAngles: And so many more.

    When in Rome . . .

    Pound of flesh . . .

    I’ve heard it said that any famous quote or common expression can usually be traced to the Bible or Shakespeare.

    • #13
  14. MichaelC19fan Inactive

    I very much enjoyed the interview and Ms. MacDonald’s brave work but I strongly disagree with her rather antiquated view of what college is for. She advocated studying what ever you want. For most non-Ivy League students that is horrible advice. The college system serves two purposes. The first is signaling. The fact the one was accepted into a college is a signal to future employers that one has the necessary traits to be a good employee. The other is increasing human capital by learning marketable skills. If one gets into an Ivy League or equivalent than one’s major is irrelevant. That fact that one passed through one of the most selective filters in the US is a signal that one is in the top percentiles in IQ and other desirable traits. But with the mantra of everyone should go to college the signaling effect of being admitted to a non-Ivy League school has been destroyed. Earning a degree in English or the humanities from a middling school is taking a major chance of not being employable in the labor market. In today’s environment, outside the elite universities a student must increase their human capital by studying in a STEM related field.

    • #14
  15. EHerring Coolidge

    Life imitates art, in this case….read mediocre writers and develop mediocre thinking or read great writers and ….

    I think the students are admitting they aren’t up to the task and need their work watered down.

    • #15
  16. Ramblin' Lex Inactive
    Ramblin' Lex

    The barbarians are inside the gates.  Who let them in?

    • #16
  17. BR Member

    I demand that baskets are lowered to 6′-0″ so I can finally succeed at basketball. I’m short and out of shape and I don’t shoot very well. And, I’m in my fifties and never really cared for sports. What if I don’t care if I ruin the sport?

    • #17
  18. L'Angevine Member

    A little late to the game on this one, but 2 things:

    1. The arrogance of the students they were describing is just astounding. I just can’t wrap my head around this mindset that dismisses what “dead white males” have to say solely by virtue of their being white and male. Almost all the interpretive work is done if you look at reading the classics that way. As she says, it’s just an excuse for lazy thinking. Why bother actually engaging with a classic work if it’s just elitist/classist/racist/sexist? In that case, you don’t have to, but you’re not admitting to yourself or anyone else that you’re not doing the work because it’s too hard or you just don’t want to.
    2. I need to find a copy of Middlemarch.
    • #18
  19. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera

    Jim Beck:Afternoon Duke,

    I think you might like this article on Macbeth by Theodore Dalrymple

    I think the article suggests that it is through art that we can learn about the nature of man and about the problems man has when he has choice and power. We are currently suffering because our culture has lost its understanding of human nature and the boundaries our nature places upon us.

    Folks, here’s the late great Harry Jaffa on Macbeth, Lincoln’s favorite play!

    • #19
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