The Magazine

Does Harvard Hate Humanities?

No, but it doesn’t understand them.

Jul 8, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 41 • By PETER BERKOWITZ
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It is also necessary to study other civilizations, but to do this seriously would require universities, instead of scuttling requirements, to institute substantial foreign language requirements. Nothing is so revealing of multiculturalism’s status as a political program rather than a research paradigm than the indifference of its proponents to language study. The humanities should proudly tout the benefits​—​in commercial life, diplomacy, and national security​—​that come from mastering foreign languages.

And it is necessary for professors, department chairs, deans, and university presidents to shake off their lassitude and firmly, aggressively, and persistently oppose the intolerance, both methodological and political, that afflicts the humanities. It is an evasion to speak of “a kernel of truth” concerning the well-documented hostility to dissent and diversity of opinion on campus. Indeed, these are prominent features of the humanities landscape, which bright undergraduates quickly discern and from which, precisely if they are blessed with a love of learning, they swiftly flee.

Such simple steps could do much to restore the humanities. It is a measure of the grimness of the situation that, judging by this report of those entrusted with conserving and improving the humanities at Harvard, these steps have little chance of being considered seriously let alone implemented effectively.

Peter Berkowitz is the Tad and Dianne Taube senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and the author, most recently, of Constitutional Conservatism: Liberty, Self-Government, and Political Moderation.

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