The Decline of the West in Four Sentences

News out of Stanford is that students have voted down a referendum on reinstituting a Western Civilization requirement that was abandoned in the 1980s by a margin of 6 to 1. Not sure just what to say about this, but after all Stanford is a junior university, so maybe that explains it. On the other hand, I’m not so sure this is a defeat for conservative education, given how badly the humanities and social sciences are now taught at most universities. (I had thoughts on Stanford’s non-science curricula in the Weekly Standard back in December.)

Leonard Cover copyBut right now I’m reading Princeton historian Thomas C. Leonard’s terrific new book, Illiberal Reformers: Race, Eugenics, and American Economics in the Progressive Era, about which I am overdue for a full review to National Review. (It’s coming, Mike, it’s coming.) I’ll save my longer comments for the review, but here are four short sentences that suggest all you need to know about the decline of higher education under the “progressives.”

In 1880, college courses in Latin outnumbered courses in political economy by ten to one. By 1890, however, the ratio had decreased to three to one, and by 1900, it was down to two to one. At leading schools in 1900, there was parity. By 1912, only English had more undergraduate majors than did economics at Yale University.

One irony here is that “political economy” is no longer taught in most economics departments any more. Heh.