As Shakespeare turns 450, humanities are dying

In honor of William Shakespeare’s 450th birthday, Jay Greene mourns the death of the humanities in U.S. schools.

He cites Harold Bloom: “Shakespeare not only invented the English language, but also created human nature as we know it today.”

“Teaching children about what it means to be a human being” isn’t important to “some of the more prominent” reform movements, writes Greene. They see school as “a mechanism for improving students’ economic prospects.” That’s not the most important element of education.

We aren’t gorillas, for whom zoo-keepers seek to optimize food, shelter, and longevity.  Unlike gorillas we are inclined to reflect on what our existence means and try to give that existence purpose.  Education should help guide us in doing that, not just train us to optimize food, shelter, and longevity by becoming the best future workers we can be.  To reflect on what it means to be a human being we need to learn the humanities, including history, literature, and art.

Few will admit hostility to the humanities, but “it is the dominant thrust in the 21st Century Skills movement, which is backed by the same people who gave us Common Core, with its shift away from literature to ‘informational texts’.”

Here’s a graphic that represents the key elements of 21st century learning:


p21_rainbow_id254

Greene wonders where the humanities fit. The core subjects have to start with an “r” or deal with the 21st century.