Monday, December 3, 2012

Barzun and Culture

Just time for a quick quote this morning:
Jacques Barzun, who passed away recently, published a collection of essays in the late 80s, The Culture We Deserve.  He discusses the baleful effects of handing over our culture to college liberal arts departments.  The proper repository of culture is the people, and it is the proper job of education to transmit that culture from generation to generation.  Instead, universities, beginning in the late 1800s, began to teach scholarship instead.  Rather than experiencing the cultural canon, students were taught to analyze it in increasingly narrow and politicized terms.  The purpose of “Hamlet” isn’t to serve as a template for the study of patriarchal roles in Tudor England, it’s to teach about the failure of thought as a substitute for action.
The liberal arts ought all to be pulling in the same direction to teach a common cultural literacy, understanding of each enhancing appreciation for the others.   Barzun understands that historical knowledge is necessary to know the mindset of the artist.  But chasing after the respectability of science, college history departments have increasingly forsaken broad historical themes for narrow, isolated problems, what he terms, “retrospective sociology.”

This is from here. Actually, this is pretty much what I am trying to do in this blog: pass on the culture of music to anyone who is interested.

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