What is the fate of a liberal arts college like Yale? In a New York Times piece called “The Woe-Is-Us Books,” Stanley Fish GRD ’62 compiles an informal meta-analysis of recent books that agonize over the ubiquitous question of how to solve the liberal arts education crisis.
What is the crisis? The authors don’t agree, but they all demand reformation.
Fish summarizes proposed solutions: “raise tuition, enmesh the university in the world of patents, technology transfers and venture capital partnerships, more on-line teaching, raise more private funds, cut out athletics and fancy student centers, drop departments, ration disciplines (not every Ivy League college needs to have a philosophy department), grow a new crop of presidents who will ‘man up’ and not kowtow to legislators and trustees.” And these solutions are only for money-related problems.
Stepping outside the brouhaha, Fish sardonically reminds us of a liberal arts philosophy: “to the strengthening of democracy, to the fashioning of citizens, to the advancement of social justice or any other worthy but academically irrelevant aim.”
But at least he defends our honor. In response to one book’s mockery of Yale’s course selection, Fish says that “in fact, they sound like great courses.”