College Curriculum: How to Improve Our Higher Education

3 mins read

These days, most college students get at most a smattering of courses in the humanities, spread out over their entire four (or more) year stay. That’s a mistake, argues Grattan Brown (Academic Dean of Thales College, which will open next year) in today’s Martin Center article.

It would be much better, Brown maintains, for colleges to save the humanities mostly for the student’s junior and senior years.

He writes:

First, teach grammar, logic, and rhetoric but not philosophy, literature, or other humanities courses to freshmen. Many freshmen are smart, ambitious, and motivated, but they do not yet have the intellectual capacities or the life experiences that they will bring into their junior and senior years. Some high school students never encountered the classics of any tradition. They arrive on campus without ever having struggled with difficult-yet-rewarding texts and artistic works.

That’s sensible, but unfortunately, many college students are never taught grammar, logic, and rhetoric anymore. Instead, they get PC courses on diversity and the evils of Western civilization.

Later in their careers, students should study the humanities. Brown continues:

Students then receive a much richer college experience if, in the junior and senior years, the bulk of humanities study accompanies the highest level of specialized, professional study. This arrangement enables students of diverse disciplines, professions, and industries to discuss our shared humanity, even though people interpret it differently and contradict each other. In this way, the curriculum fosters the kind of conversations that adults have in families, neighborhoods, and workplaces.

College leaders who are interested in the optimal education of their students should think seriously about Brown’s idea.

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.

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