Two (almost) dead horses at once: the humanities establishment and Obama’s mis- and un-educated view of his responsibilities from The New Criterion,, which can get cranky but isn’t wrong: Instapundit links Mark Bauerlain’s “Humanities”. Flog away he does, but that’s because dead or not establishment academics still educate the next generation and even now some see Obama as a defender of art and light.
The tools of the humanities trade were chucked & replaced with social science in the last decades; one purpose was to expand the canon. Without those tools, as one Bauerlain commentor observes, evaluation can not be thoughtful nor analytic. The very art with which these critics wanted to enlarge the canon was analyzed and judged by criteria that cheapened, made art less universal, less purposeful.
For instance, it brought in popular works not considered art in, say, the fifties. Those old tools helped us appreciate them. But as critics began using social science theories, they flattened art, devaluing great art but also the art they “found” in best seller lists.
This may not be surprising, since these theorists diminish the role of human nature. Why not, then, ignore the power of man’s greatest and most purposeful work that reaches across centuries – even millennia – to touch us? Contemporary ideology & insularity cannot appreciate its ability to delight us, help us understand ourselves. But to some we have no selves – only group identities.