by Heather MacDonald
January 17, 2014
In 2011, the University of California at Los Angeles decimated its English major. What happened at UCLA is part of a momentous shift in our culture that bears on our relationship to the past—and to civilization itself. The UCLA coup represents the characteristic academic traits of our time: narcissism, an obsession with victimhood, and a relentless determination to reduce the stunning complexity of the past to the shallow categories of identity and class politics. The only true justification for the humanities is that they provide the thing that Faust sold his soul for: knowledge. But humanistic learning is also an end in itself. It is simply better to have escaped one’s narrow, petty self and entered minds far more subtle and vast than one’s own than never to have done so. Ultimately, humanistic study is the loving duty we owe those artists and thinkers whose works so transform us. It keeps them alive, as well as us.