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  • Kim Idol

Universities Need to Rescue the English Major.

In the 1920s and 30s, politicians threatened to censure movies. Hollywood executives cringed in response and created the Hay’s Code, a direct assault on artistry and innovation in the name of rigidity and fear of free speech. In the 1950s, the comic book industry tried to rescue itself from government stewardship by creating The Comics Code, rules that nearly killed the industry. Some would say it’s never recovered. And after hearing the lyrics of one song, Tipper Gore, launched a censorship crusade against albums. Common to all three efforts was the bullying voice of a leadership frightened of new ideas.

Those attacked ducked down and became assassins of complex and creative ideas that help culture survive and give people hope.

Now colleges and universities are infected with the notion that you attend college to get a job. Led by officials who don’t understand that humanities, literature studies in particular, are essential to developing intelligence, innovation, and the necessary sense of humanity and ethics that should drive modern society, we dialed down on STEM, killing the humanities for what we deemed practicalities. As a result, we have cheated students of the exposure to reading (yes, books and short stories) and prevented them from learning how to engage in multi-tiered arguments.

Many colleges have dedicated themselves to destroying English as a practical major. However, the kind of writing and reading that promotes the complex ideas you can only learn by studying fiction is essential to developing the character and the intellect we need from those who will lead us into the future.

Our leaders, by in large, make simple-minded decisions that prevent us from grappling with real problems and stop us from remembering that humanity is our goal. Fox News admits it promotes lies but acknowledges that it can’t stop lying because it will lose an audience that cannot handle ideological gray zones and is terrified of change. Their audience needs to read.

To become experts in particular fields of knowledge, we need to learn about everything. Being dumb fuels blind rage and results in people acting out. Some results are shootings and riots driven by an inarticulate sense of helplessness. The process begins when we deprive citizens of a varied holistic educational experience that makes them better and brighter.

We need the English degree more than ever. Students who parse the motives of an overwhelmed Danish prince learn to seek layered solutions for hard human problems. They gain confidence in their ability to do so.

Recently an elected official floated the idea of allowing abused children to die as a money-saving protocol. The speaker is an idiot who has not learned to read, but he also has friends who are proud of their hatred of books. It is a diseased outlook. We live in a world afflicted with problems that will never be resolved but must always be addressed. But when leaders don’t read, they seek simplistic solutions that fail to counter the horrible realities that will always be part of life.

Schools need to do their part. They need to save the English degree. It is well past the time when schools should define the first college years as time to invest in a range of general studies meant to encourage curiosity in everything. Colleges should be aggressively recovering an essential discipline from idiots who have turned the study of literature into contentless composition courses.

We don’t read. Students don’t read. They often say they don’t have the time. Time to fix that instead of proudly curling up and being stubbornly stupid and unread.

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