Common Core vs. liberal arts

March 13, 2014 

Common Core vs. liberal arts

The Herald recently published a letter by a Mr. Dennis Puckett in which the writer expressed his concern regarding the adoption of Common Core.

The letter itself was uninteresting conservative boilerplate defending "states' rights." Far more interesting (and amusing!) was a response listing the dangerous areas of study forming the core of "liberal arts" and contrasting them with those areas which he deems practical and unlikely to indoctrinate young minds.

The threatening areas are "literature, languages, philosophy, history, psychology, and science!?" Recommended, are "engineering, physics, electronics, and chemistry" because they are absolute and insusceptible to "interpretation."

Conservatives are easily scared, especially by knowledge, equating it with "indoctrination!" From this list of dangerous subjects I would dismiss philosophy and psychology as subjects relegated to higher education. Taking the others separately:

1. Literature: In addition to holding up a mirror to humanity, literature teaches us nuance in ideas and expression, and wrestles with moral and ethical issues.

A good book tip: Charles Dickens' "Hard Times." The grotesquely hilarious description of Mr. Gradgrind's school will please advocates of pure objectivity despite the spiritual poverty.

2. History: Helps us understand how we got where we are. Conservatives will make a wide circle around some areas (the enlightenment, the industrial revolution, abolition, etc.)

3. Languages. Is there really no value in the thoughts of other cultures? Caution: They don't all think and see the world exactly as we do.

4. Science: Physics and chemistry are OK. That leaves biology. Can anyone guess where the threat might lie here, which dogmas might be questioned?

Removing the humanities from education serves no one. An open and inquiring mind poses no threats. Let's return to the ideal of liberal arts as the foundation of responsible citizenship! And stop being so easily scared!

George Kern


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