Studying the classical works of William Shakespeare used to be mandatory in any education, in order to help students learn and appreciate the full canon of Western Civilization and how it relates to the modern world. According to a new study by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA), however, this trend is ending at America’s top colleges and universities, except at a few select schools, such as Christendom College.
While Christendom’s rigorous liberal arts education has always included a study of Shakespeare’s work as part of the core curriculum, the top national universities and liberal arts colleges are now turning away from Shakespeare, according to Ryan Cole of the National Review.
“Part of this motivation is economic,” according to Cole, as educational institutions decide to teach students modern English courses that “pander to their customers with courses on children’s literature, cinema, television, Harry Potter, and vampires.”
At the same time, these choices in higher education reflect the current political landscape as well, including “academia’s devaluing of Western classics and its hostility to anything white, male, or old, adjectives that supposedly mean irrelevant and ethnocentric. This is nonsense,” Cole says.
According to ACTA, less that 8% of colleges and universities in America require even English majors to study Shakespeare during their collegiate careers, with many schools no longer even offering classes about the works of the English “Bard.” “It’s no wonder that the public is rapidly losing faith in our colleges and universities,” says ACTA President Anna Neal.
The classical works of Shakespeare, such as Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, are still taught to every student who comes to Christendom, and are, in fact, central to a proper liberal arts education. Even as other institutions reject the literature that has formed Western Civilization, Christendom continues to teach these classical works in the core curriculum, because the study of them trains students to express themselves coherently and to read critically — skills that are essential for success after college.
While the works of Shakespeare continue to be “vanishing from the curricula of America’s college,” according to Cole, Christendom continues to preserve the great ideas of Shakespeare and others, such as Dante and C.S. Lewis, giving students the keys to language and literary criticism that have stood the test of time.
To find out more about Christendom’s Western literature offerings, and about our challenging English Language and Literature major, please visit here.