Thursday, March 17, 2005

The centrality of the arts

It's about time somebody started championing the Arts as "the" heart of a liberal arts education --well, really, it should be central to any university/college education.


"Let's say you're an academic adviser and a student comes asking which course to take to fulfill a humanities requirement: Europe in the Age of Revolution or Beethoven's symphonies? Or how about this one: the philosophy of Descartes or the poetry of Milton?

If the adviser were Helen Vendler, the A. Kingsley Porter University Professor, Beethoven and Milton would probably get the nod, and not simply because as one of the nation's leading literary critics Vendler is prejudiced in favor of her own and related academic disciplines.

If pressed, Vendler could make a reasoned and persuasive case for why the arts should be at the center of a humanities curriculum. In fact, that is exactly what she did when she delivered the Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities in May 2004. Established in 1972 by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Jefferson Lecture is the highest honor the federal government bestows for distinguished intellectual and public achievement in the humanities. "

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