I have been reading about the plans of the University of Leicester, England, to drop medieval literature and English from the curriculum in favor of “a range of modules which are excitingly innovative,” such as courses on race, ethnicity, sexuality and diversity. The University is calling this a “decolonized curriculum.”
Dr. Shazia Jagot, a Leicester alumnus of South Asian and working class background, asks “"What happens when you remove the opportunity for students, particularly black and ethnic minority students, to read Beowulf, Chaucer and Milton?”
Such developments shouldn’t astonish anyone. They merely continue trends well advanced on both sides of the Atlantic, replacing a broadening education with a narrowing indoctrination.
In some ways, more educated people are better informed, even today. In an era of ideological education like ours, though, in other ways they are less so. Unsurprisingly, the honors students in my classes are much more eager to please their teachers than my other students are. So, by and large, they are more susceptible to indoctrination – and by this time in their lives, more thoroughly indoctrinated -- than students of middling ability. They believe what they’re told, if told by the right sorts of persons, but they may not talk at all to the other sorts of persons. One would think they would always be better at critical thinking, but they are often more naïve and closed-minded. They may have more numerous sources of information, but their sources are often less intellectually diverse.
Being young, they have too little self-knowledge to recognize themselves in such a description, and tend to believe exactly the opposite of themselves on all counts. As one told me when I asked what she was learning, “We can do everything.”
Providing promising students with the opportunity to become liberally educated without merely puffing up their egos and setting them up to be brainwashed is hard and getting harder. Finding ways to teach the liberal arts outside of colleges and universities is of the first importance to civilization.