English 101

June 6, 2000

While we find ourselves in the valley between commencement and fall enrollment, Suzanne Fields takes us on a quick tour of English classes on the nation's campuses. What she finds is not very encouraging.

She says, "Multiculturalism has become more important than Western Civilization's highest achievements; political correctness politicizes language and literature, depriving it of its profound imagination and aesthetic coherence; television and computers make learning quick and often pleasurable, but reduce a young person's attention span and the yearning to read the more difficult masterpieces that are the light bulbs over the head."

Suzanne Fields is not the only person concerned. Yale professor Allan Bloom, and author of The Closing of the American Mind, has written a small book simply titled How To Read and Why. He laments the loss of the English canon and believes our society is headed in the wrong direction.

A recent report from the National Association of Scholars documents the drift. After surveying the English major programs at 25 of America's most selective universities, they found that "gender and race" have become the major influences in determining what is read. For example, Toni Morrison (a black contemporary novelist) ranks sixth among assigned authors who write in English, ahead of all American writers (such as Walt Whitman, Mark Twain, William Faulkner, Emily Dickinson, and Henry James) and ahead of all British authors except Shakespeare, Chaucer and Milton. Zora Neale Hurston (a writer of the Harlem Literary Renaissance) was cited more often than Twain, Fielding, Poe, Dryden, Pope and Swift.

It is theoretically possible that an English major could earn a college degree without ever having read Shakespeare or Milton. And it is quite likely that any English major could graduate without having read many of the classic texts of English literature. I suppose this is what you get when multiculturalism replaces tradition and common sense.

I'm Kerby Anderson of Probe Ministries, and that's my opinion.