In the summer of 2012, as the University of California reeled from one piece of bad budget news to another, a veteran political columnist sounded an alarm. Cuts in state funding were jeopardizing the university’s mission of preserving the “cultural legacy essential to any great society,” Peter Schrag warned in the Sacramento Bee:
Would we know who we are without knowing our common history and culture, without knowing Madison and Jefferson and Melville and Dickinson and Hawthorne; without Shakespeare, Milton and Chaucer; without Dante and Cervantes; without Charlotte Brontë and Jane Austen; without Goethe and Molière; without Confucius, Buddha, Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.; without Mozart, Rembrandt and Michelangelo; without the Old Testament; without the Gospels; without Plato and Aristotle, without Homer and Sophocles and Euripides, without Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky; without Gabriel García Márquez and Toni Morrison?
Schrag’s appeal to the value of humanistic study was unimpeachable. It just happened to be laughably ignorant about the condition of such study at the University of California. Stingy state taxpayers aren’t endangering the transmission of great literature, philosophy, and art; the university itself is. No UC administrator would dare to invoke Schrag’s list of mostly white, mostly male thinkers as an essential element of a UC education; no UC campus has sought to ensure that its undergraduates get any exposure to even one of Schrag’s seminal thinkers (with the possible exception of Toni Morrison), much less to America’s founding ideas or history. READ MORE HERE