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Point of View: On Cutting Liberal Arts

Wed, 11/15/2023 - 17:48

Colleges are cutting liberal arts, among them history, literature, languages, philosophy, ethics — all the subjects whose study can lead to an intellectually engaging life on earth — and pushing, instead, subjects whose chief aim appears to be lucre.

Yes, most of us need to be partly sustained by paychecks, but if we are fixated only on them, an intellectually deprived, nay a spiritually deprived, life awaits.

“Money can’t buy me love,” the Beatles sang. And, of course, they ultimately did have it, lots of it, but I imagine it was the fire of youth, the headiness of creativity, and perhaps the idea that they could change the world that kept them at it in Hamburg for so long. No, money can’t buy you love.

The late David Wilt once proposed that there be a school here without walls, his idea being that there were so many fascinating, creative people around of all kinds — scientists, artists, writers, fishermen, woodworkers, sculptors, chefs, psychologists, pilots, musicians, arborists, sailors, architects, carpenters, auto mechanics . . . the list goes on — that visits to their studios or workplaces places would plant the seeds that would launch kids in this special place on their way.

Money can’t buy you love no, no, no, nor can it buy you peace of mind, engaged as you might well be in the constant pursuit of it. If this country succumbs utterly to the dollar sign — as it may have already (see whom it is many people look up to) — and to profit above all else, say goodbye to America’s core all-for-one-one-for-all values, its heady mix of individuality and adherence to the greater good. It’s a mix that some apparently would rather deny and expunge, equating a concern for the greater good with socialistic leveling and wanting freebooting individualism to reign alone.

There should be more to life than the worship of Mammon, and, yes, more to it than a mindless toeing of the line. The humanities point the way, they help you reflect, they help you think for yourself — think for your sovereign self, as Stuart Vorpahl used to say — they broaden your perspective, they deepen your sense of humanity. It’s a shame they’re being trashed.    

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