The Future of the Humanities

George Leef

In this week’s Pope Center Clarion Call, Jane Shaw writes about a fascinating talk that former St. John’s College president John Agresto recently gave at Duke University. In his presentation, he expressed concern over the future of the humanities, both in Iraq and in the United States. Agresto was involved in the effort to rebuild higher education after Saddam Hussein’s fall in Iraq. He observes that it’s hard to get traction with the humanities in Islamic nations because they don’t have much of a tradition of scholarly questioning. And anyone who tries that has to fear running afoul of religious zealots who won’t tolerate analysis and debate over the Koran.

He also worries that in the U.S., the humanities are in trouble because so many people insist on college studies that directly lead to a job — the “what are you going to do with that?” question. That’s right, but the humanities are also threatened by the same sort of “you must not question that” attitude we find in Islamic countries, namely the growing intolerance of the politically correct for opinions they dislike.

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