GAM and Bauerlein’s Claims?

“GAM. NOUN—A social meeting of two (or more) Whale-ships, generally on a cruising-ground; when, after exchanging hails, they exchange visits by boats’ crews; the two captains remaining, for the time, on board of one ship, and the two chief mates on the other.” (Moby-Dick, 198)

Welcome to the Dallas Institute Cowan Center’s North Texas Humanities Consortium Gam! It is our way of staying in community across the rough seas of education, talking about ideas of importance in “friendly and sociable contact.”

Mark Bauerlein’s most recent contribution to the attack on the humanities is our first jumping off point. These are the final paragraphs from his article called “The Slow and Steady Shrinkage of the Humanities” (3. 29.18 • In First Things).

“Humanities professors have forgotten the first principle of undergraduate study in the humanities: inspiration. Students come because the material compels them. They may love modern novels, or a high school teacher may have turned them on to Renaissance art or the Civil War. They want greatness and beauty and sublimity. Professors should tell students that they have on their syllabi the works of the ages. Why not play up the classics? Forget critical thinking, workplace readiness, and verbal skills. Highlight Hamlet, Elizabeth Bennet, and the Invisible Man. Reach out to freshmen with an invitation to the Pantheon of genius and talent. March in to college curriculum meetings and announce that everyone must take a course in Shakespeare, Michelangelo, and Mozart. Take students to dinner and pass along your enthusiasm in a non-class setting.

That’s what it will take to reverse the slide, and I hope my colleagues realize it.”

He’s talking about college and university professors who teach warped or watered down (And the nautical puns keep coming!) curricula, but haven’t we done this, too? As he earlier decried, “how many students will say in earnest, ‘Hey, they teach critical thinking over there—that’s exciting—I’m in!’?”

So what strikes you about Bauerlein’s claims here?

Please leave a comment for a passing vessel to receive.

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