Some academics across the pond have come up with a new way to teach the humanities to university students. They are attempting to deal with the perennial problem discussed here in previous posts:
Hard-working, pragmatic types, who abound in the United States, have always been suspicious of university education in the humanities. What good does it do to study the works of Milton or Rousseau, let alone the enigmatic pronouncements of Buddha or the Zen poet Basho? The unemployment rate hovers near 10%, and the Chinese are feeding their undergraduates a strict diet of engineering and accountancy. How can we pampered, decadent sorts possibly still be indulging our youth with lectures on Roman poetry and Renaissance painting?
These professors want to emphasize the practical, “real-world” value of the humanities, showing students that the material can change their thinking and help them to live. They see that the modern university teaches this aspect of the humanities very poorly: “It is a basic tenet of contemporary scholarship that no academic should connect works of culture to individual sorrows.”
So they have developed a new type of university called the “School of Life.” The humanities courses are topical: “marriage, child-rearing, choosing a career, changing the world and death.” If the humanities are to survive in higher education in the coming age of budget-cutting and austerity, is this the route they’ll have to go? Will accrediting bodies let them?
From a Christian perspective, one problem I see with this approach is that it is explicitly designed to offer guidance in life without scripture. That will only take you so far . . .