NYT Debate: Do Colleges Need French Departments?

Ashley Thorne

In light of SUNY-Albany's cuts to its foreign language programs, the New York Times asked eight higher ed experts, "Do colleges need French departments?" Heres a takeaway sentence from each one. (See also this SUNY-Albany professor's remarks on the language cuts, posted at NAS.org.)

Martha Nussbaum, author of Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities: "Even if a nation’s only goal were economic prosperity, the humanities supply essential ingredients for a healthy business culture."

Louis Menand, author of The Marketplace of Ideas: "The loss of any department is a loss to every department at that institution."

John McWhorter, author of Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold Story of English: "I believe we should reconsider having vocational tracks like those in European educational systems."

Mark Bauerlein, English professor at Emory University: "Lose [the humanities] and the college produces a half-educated graduate."

Ellen Schrecker, author of The Lost Soul of Higher Education: "Languages, literature, philosophy, history – by exposing students to a wide range of new and old ideas and allowing them to articulate their own responses to those ideas – can create the reflective and self-aware citizens our nation needs."

Gaye Tuchman, sociology professor at the University of Connecticut: "No one put a price tag on either the appeal or utility of Latin, of reading Racine or Confucius, or of learning the structure of a symphony."

Richard Vedder, director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity: "As resources tighten and that luxury no longer is available, universities need to do what businesses routinely do – reinvent what they do to meet the changing needs of society."

Anne E. McCall, professor of French at the University of Denver: "That said, the attraction of particular subjects does shift, and universities need to adjust offerings that make sense for their mission, size, geographical location, and budgets."

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