|Posted by JJ The Psychotherapist on April 20, 2021 at 4:55 PM|
Cornel West slammed Howard University's decision to close its classics department, calling it a "spiritual catastrophe."
In an April 19 Washington Post op-ed, West and Classic Learning Test CEO Jeremy Tate wrote that ignoring classical literature is a "terrible act [that] treats[s] Western civilization as either irrelevant and not worthy of prioritization or as harmful and only worthy of condemnation."
As part of “prioritization efforts,” Howard University declared on April 16 that its classics department would be disbanded and its faculty would be relocated to other departments.
West claims that removing classical literature from the curriculum is particularly detrimental to black students, who are unable to find their own voices without being “grounded in tradition... in legacies... [and] in heritages.”
West, a Harvard philosophy professor, linked the relevance of the classics to civil rights activists such as Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King, who "mentions Socrates three times in his 1963 "Letter From Birmingham Jail," according to West. He claims that removing the classics demonstrates "spiritual decay, moral decline, and a deep intellectual narrowness running amok in American culture."
The Western canon, according to West and Tate, is "a conversation among great thinkers that grows richer as we add our own voices and the excellence of voices from Africa, Asia, Latin America, and everywhere else in the world."
Howard's decision "is the result of a massive failure in'schooling,' which has devolved into nothing more than the acquisition of skills, labels, and jargon across the country." “Schooling is not the same as education.”
They argued that “education draws out the uniqueness of people to be all that they can be in light of their irreducible singularity.”
Some professors in higher education have expressed concern that their fields are not sufficiently diverse.
Since some see classical antiquity as the cradle of modern democracy, a Princeton University classics professor said at a 2019 conference that he hopes the classics area as it is currently taught “dies as quickly as possible.” Professors of medieval studies have argued that their discipline has a problem with white supremacy because it is "a safe place to be white."