Transcript for Howard University dissolves classics department
Howard university just became the latest college to dissolve their classics department. The classics will still be offered, however, but I guess it's no longer a big deal and so people are -- have all kinds of responses to this, joy. What's your response? Well, I understand that they're taking it out of the curriculum as a major but it would still be available in the college. I think it's important that we all learn about the Greeks, for example, who basically gave us everything, everything, you know, democracy, let's start with that. Western philosophy, medicine, the hippocratic oath, drama, I mean, the list goes on and on what the Greeks have taught us over the many, many centuries, you do want to learn about that and, you know, I believe that we -- first of all, I do national want to live in a world with techies and hedge funders. That's where we're headed if we lose liberal arts. Nothing more boring than a hedge funder at a dinner party. I'll say that right there and I just think that, you know, when I went to college, 64 of 128 of my credits were required courses. I had to take philosophy, I had to take calculus. Hi to study a language. There were so many requirements and it was hard. It was very hard. I had to beg for a "D" in calculus and maybe today I make a joke about it because I know a little about it. Everything is useful and I really think that this business of everything is an elective course is a big mistake in the universities these days. That's all. All right, Meghan, what's your opinion of a change like this, do you think it's a good idea? Well, first of all I agree with everything joy just said especially about the hedge funders, the worst date I ever went on in my entire life was a hedge funder. They're terribly boring people, no offense. Cornell west wrote an interesting article in "The Washington post" about this and he said, quote, students must be challenged, can they confront the fact that human existence is not easily divided into good and evil but filled with complexity, nuance and ambiguity. I think that's a compelling and significant take on this. I went to Columbia university at -- the ivy league that has lit hum and CC as the baseline of my education and in those you read Plato, aristotle, the bible, Koran, nietzsche. Are foundations of all society including the justice system and the idea of removing them -- I don't understand it because there aren't enough women or people of color that are -- I am against subtracting works of literature, if anything we should add. We should add more to add to classic literature and move it down to more modern times but the idea of removing things like Plato's "Republic" from our foundation or any college education is not only dangerous but incredibly shortsighted. Sunny, you have a feeling about the classics and where they belong in today's society? Yeah, I do because I like Meghan had to study the classics in college. You know, I was a communications major so hi to read all of that and I also read Dr. West's "Washington post" op-ed and agree with it. No question when you read socrates and Plato and the classics, it helps you in terms of understanding critical thinking and understanding nuance and understanding just sort of clarity of thought and attention to detail. Those things are really important in learning your own voice and so I'm disappointed in Howard's decision. I don't really understand it. My understanding is that they launched this academic and administrative program prioritization initiative in the spring of 2017 and it was supposed to strengthen the university's overall academic program portfolio and I don't know how this strengthens that. I think you should add certainly writings from, you know, premiere authors from Africa and from Asia, but taking away these types of classics doesn't make sense especially if you read things like Dr. King's letter from a Birmingham jail from 1963. I mean, he quotes socrates three times, so there's no question that, you know, the foremost black thinkers read these classics, so I think this was a misstep by Howard. Sara, when you think about these disappearing from the curriculum, what goes through your mind? I think it's a big mistake. The first day of college I went to Smith and the first class, the first professor said I am not here to teach you to do a job, I'm here to teach you how to think and that laid the foundation for my entire education and I think the importance here which joy referenced was it's got to remain a major because a major dictates how many hours you spend studying it and it doesn't become just a one-off elective course so it's nice it's still an option but this should be the foundation of college level education. It does hone the skills of critical thinking, finding where you fit within all of these great minds over time, persuasiveness, how to make an argument. You question justice, human nature, you name it. It is the foundation of a good education, so it is sad to see this happening and I hope it's rethought. Well, I find it interesting because I didn't go to college and I read a great many of the authors and philosophers and one of the things probably would have been a better idea is to include philosophers, world philosophers like confucius or any of the philosophers that existed in Africa because a lot of information comes out of Greek but a lot of information comes from different parts of the known world at the time and so finding and combining all of that information might be a better way than to say we don't need it because, of course, we do. You always need to have someone saying, where is your mind right now? This is the direction you might want to go in. This is a direction you might want to think about. You can chew gum and walk down the treat at the same time. So I don't know why you want to get rid of stuff but, you know, there's a lot out there that we could be incorporating. That would probably be much more useful than tossing it and this is happening not just in black universities, but in white universities as well. I just wanted to make sure that people knew it wasn't just Howard doing this but this seems to be a trend.
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