Harvard’s Parochialism

Harvard University has a new president, Dr. Drew Gilpin Faust, and soon she will be forced to consider the matter of curricular reform. It will not be easy. The modern faculty prefers its administrators to stick to fund-raising and honorific functions, and to keep clear of the classroom. In Harvard’s case, however, reform is long overdue. In the early 1970’s, its curriculum was reconfigured to downplay “bodies of knowledge” in favor of “approaches to knowledge”—in other words, to subordinate content to methodology. Traditional course requirements in Western civilization or foreign languages were shelved in favor of courses that promoted “critical thinking.” Now, after a generation of experimenting with a content-free curriculum, the university has begun having second thoughts. Last October, a faculty panel made some modest proposals, in particular that students be required to take courses in American history, ethics, and religion.

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Harvard’s Parochialism

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