CRF Blog

Save the Humanities in Our Public Schools

by Bill Hayes

Helen Vendler for the New Republic argues that we must Save the Humanities in Our Public Schools.

Most countries want students to know about their own national achievements. Only America is silent, in its public elementary and high schools, about its own cultural glories. Most American students graduate from high school knowing the names of only a few American authors and, of those authors, hardly any works; they rarely can cite by name even one American painter or architect; they know of no American philosopher, no American composer. The vacuum in the schools abandons our children to contemporary pop culture. We have deprived students of their own national heritage: we are not giving them much of anything to be proud about.

When America, with an understandable Whitmanian self-assertion, dropped classical languages and European humanistic works from secondary school instruction, it lost the languages, poems, novels, and philosophical works on which our own earlier American authors drew, without replacing them with strong works in English produced in the United States themselves. The vacuum was complete. And the cultural vacuum has recently produced the idea that students should read, for the most part, factual and informational prose rather than works of art. [more]