Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Dumbing Down the Humanities at Princeton

Diversity has a price. In America's great universities the rage to admit underqualified and underperforming students has produced an inevitable consequence-- dumbing down the curriculum. 

Most especially, this affects the humanities and the social sciences. I recognize that the idiot administrators who are running these places are drooling over the prospect of introducing social justice math and diversity engineering programs, but, for now, at Princeton University, they are contenting themselves with dumbing down the classics. In part that means the Classics; in another part it means the classics. 

The capitalized Classics are the texts of Greece and Rome, the foundation of our Western philosophical and literary traditions. The non-capitalized classics are the ensuing works, the ones that taught us how to think and to write clearly. 

Now, the Classics department at Princeton University has dumbed down the requirements for their major. Students will no longer have to know Greek or Latin.

Nor will they have any idea why Homer wrote of the oînops póntos or the rhododáktulos Ēos, that is, the wine-dark sea or the rosy-fingered Dawn. 

Paul Mirengoff has the story in the Powerline blog. Obviously, if you admit less qualified students, you must change the curriculum, so that they do not all flunk out:

Using race-based preferences to admit students with qualifications vastly inferior to those admitted without the need for such preferences creates all sorts of problems and dislocations. One of them is the erosion of standards within various departments, especially ones that teach hard stuff. I wrote about one example — eliminating econometrics as a required course for graduating from a major school of public policy — here.

Now comes word, via Brittany Bernstein at NRO, that Classics majors at Princeton University will no longer be required to learn Greek or Latin. An intermediate proficiency in Greek or Latin won’t be required to enter the concentration and the requirement that students to take Greek or Latin will also be dropped.

At least Princeton’s French majors will still be required to know French and its Math majors to know calculus. For now, at least.

Of course, the reason why Princeton students who major in Classics will not need to know Greek or Latin is simple: they will be spending their time learning about critical race theory and anti-racism. Or, in the current vernacular, they will bring their experience as oppressed Americans to their readings of Horace and Virgil. And this will produce a more vibrant intellectual community.

I will mention in passing that people who talk this way are not just idiots; they have no shame:

Josh Billings, director of undergraduate studies and professor of classics, claims that having students who don’t know Latin and Greek in the department “will make it a more vibrant intellectual community.” It will do so, allegedly, by “ensur[ing] that a broad range of perspectives and experiences inform our study of the ancient Greek and Roman past.”

What is the Black perspective, if any, on ancient Greece and Rome? That the Greeks and Romans were white supremacists? I doubt that this perspective is (1) relevant to studying the classics and (2) absent from the department as currently constituted. Indeed, as discussed below, Princeton’s classics department is already obsessed with “systemic racism.”

But then, Meringoff asks, what will these students be able to do with their majors. 

And what will these students do with their major? It’s unlikely they will be able to teach Greek or Latin. Even if they choose belatedly to study it, they will be far behind. It seems unlikely that, lacking strong proficiency in the languages, these students will be able to continue their study of Classics in graduate schools worth their salt.

Seeing all intellectual endeavor through the lens of race will blind us to the greatness of our civilization:

But how is it racist to require Classics majors to know Greek and Latin?

It isn’t. If anything, it seems racist to assume that Blacks need to be excused from learning Latin and Greek. If they are serious about Classics, why wouldn’t they learn the languages?

Hearing this news, Edward Luttwack, an important public intellectual, tweeted the following, via David Goldman:

11 Chinese universities teach Greek and Latin. Another 20 seek staff to so as well. Back in the US, the Princeton CLASSICS department has just eliminated the Latin or Greek requirement “to address systemic racism”. Truly racist say I. Why not just end it ? Jobs await in 中国

The last ideograms mean: the Middle Kingdom.

Anyway, we are dispensing with intellectual standards and insisting that all of Western philosophy and literature either be banned for being racist or studied only to the extent that it affirms the prevailing oppression narrative.

But, Goldman explains, when it comes to the great works of Western culture, they are alive and well in-- you guessed it-- China. Apparently, the oppressive despots of today’s China think it’s  good thing to learn classical music-- that is, not hip-hop-- and to read the great philosophy and literature:

In China, meanwhile, up to 100 million children study piano, not counting orchestral instruments. Classical music thrives in Japan and South Korea as well as China, where aspiring youngsters and their parents have embraced the most characteristically Western art form. As Luttwak observes, it isn’t just music: Chinese universities are building up their classics departments.

Perhaps the most astonishing thing is China’s enormous interest in Western philosophy. Peking University is China’s Harvard, and its undergraduate philosophy syllabus puts every American university to shame. There are two courses on Aristotle, three on Plato, four on Kant and five on Hegel, three on Nietzsche, two on set theory, and twenty-two (no typo) on logic. Of course, there are also courses on Chinese philosophy, and a bunch on Marxism (my guess is that the Marx courses aren’t well attended).

Despite what many people are saying, China has put Mao’s Cultural Revolution behind it, at just the time when America is embracing this totalitarian intellectual tyranny.

Under Mao Zedong, China had a “cultural revolution” that destroyed its universities and sent academics (and many others) into exile to “learn from the peasants” in remote villages). Now WE are having our own cultural revolution, as a Chinese acquaintance taunted me, complete with “struggle sessions” and “criticism and self-criticism” over supposed systemic racism.

As we burn down our own culture, China may become the last refuge of classical philology, Western philosophy, and classical music.

We have a student population that does not know how to write or to think. They do, however, know how to riot and to loot and to pillage.

If you spend your time reading the works of people who cannot write or think, it is going to rub off. If you want to improve your ability to think clearly and to express yourself cogently you need to study those who are good at it. For now, that is happening in China, but not in the United States.

Go figure.


David Foster said...

"China’s enormous interest in Western philosophy"...apparently Xi Jinping is a fan of Goethe's 'Faust'.

Which may be the only thing I have in common with the man.

Sam L. said...

I did not take Greek and Latin in college, though majoring in physics did acquaint me with Greek letters. Which brings me to wondering why the left are so engaged in dumbing down education. I conclude they want us to be dumb enough to do what they tell us to do. Your mileage may vary. (And that's OK, even though the left hates "OK" and the hand signal so signifying.)

Bizzy Brain said...

I visited a class in Molecular Biology at Princeton in 2018, MOL 460. You would think grading in a scientific course would be based on tests and quizzes. Not so MOL 460. From their course catalog that you can access online:
Paper in lieu of final - 40%
Take home mid term exam - 25%
Oral presentation(s) - 10%
Class/precept participation - 20%
Problem set(s) - 5%
As you can see, there’s no monitored objective testing, thus no way to flunk

Sam L. said...

BB, I tallied your pecentages, and I grade you at 100%!

Bizzy Brain said...

Gee, thanks, Sam! Lol!