I just found an old Chronicle of Higher Education article on the Great Books program.
This is where the students, in a specialized group, read the Great Books of Western Civilization without literary criticism to tell them what to think. I thought the political discussion was interesting.
The efforts focus on teaching the primary texts, based on the belief that students should rely on their own interpretations rather than on literary criticism that the professors find to be politically motivated or predictable.
That is exactly what makes some scholars skeptical of the new programs. A Great Books curriculum itself is hardly free of political motivations, these critics say….
Pious invocations of the Great Books are just as “brainless and uncritical” as some extreme forms of multiculturalism, says Gerald Graff, a professor of English at the University of Chicago.
While many professors have been using issues of race and gender to help students understand classic works, Mr. Gans is not on that bandwagon.
“It really infuriates me. I’ll tell you Calderon is in — but he’s not in because he’s Hispanic. He’s in because he’s good. Ellison is in because he’s good.”
ritics of the minor in the “Great Works of Western Civilization” suspected it of being “a Trojan Horse for a right-wing takeover of the curriculum” two years ago, he says. “I think the way we got around that was not so much in convincing our opponents they were wrong than it was building a critical mass of support, so when it came around for the final approval, we had more votes than they did.”
I would love to teach in this course. It was originally created for a community college curriculum. That would be fun. I wonder if there is any way this could come to happen.