The Liberal Arts Are a Right-Wing Plot!

In its typically clueless way, The New Yorker is hot on the topic of whether the liberal arts—and especially classical education—have gone conservative. (The article is titled, “Have the Liberal Arts Gone Conservative?”) Better break out the smelling salts.

You’d think this is an easy question. The left have attacked or hollowed out the liberal arts on campus, and the only people who take the classics seriously, and on their own terms, are conservatives. Leftist intellectuals insist on reading all classical literature through the current ideological filters, and students find it repellent, irrelevant, and above all boring.

Emma Green, The New Yorker‘s oblivious writer, offers up gems like this:

In many public schools, kids learn to read by guessing words using context clues, rather than by decoding the sounds of letters. In most classical schools, phonics reign, and students learn grammar by diagramming sentences. Some public schools have moved away from techniques like memorization, which education scholars knock as “rote learning” or “drill and kill”—the thing that’s killed being a child’s desire to learn. In contrast, classical schools prize memory work, asking students to internalize math formulas and recite poems. And then there’s literature: one New York City public-high-school reading list includes graphic novels, Michelle Obama’s memoir, and a coming-of-age book about identity featuring characters named Aristotle and Dante. In classical schools, high-school students read Aristotle and Dante. . .

So, offering students a curriculum that might enrich their lives and thinking, and impart some knowledge of our civilizational heritage, is another right-wing plot!

As more conservatives have flocked to classical education, progressive academics have issued warnings about the movement, characterizing it as a fundamentally Christian project that doesn’t include or reflect the many kids in America who aren’t white, or who have roots outside this country. The education scholar and activist Diane Ravitch recently wrote that classical charters “have become weapons of the Right as they seek to destroy democratically governed public schools while turning back the clock of education and social progress by a century.”

Pay no attention to Ravich, a once-respected education reformer who lost her mind a while ago now.

The article improves some as it goes, noting that classical education is catching on in . . . Africa. I’m sure leftist race-mongers will say this is a sign that colonialism is coming back.

I’ll look forward to a sequel article on “How Liberals Lost the Liberal Arts.” I’m guessing it will be a long wait. (The proper story line would be: “The liberal arts, like Jeffrey Epstein, didn’t kill themselves.”)

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