After 30 years, Harvard has revamped its curriculum. Or, at least, it says it’s revamping its curriculum. As you’ll see below, the powers that be at Harvard have simply made official an ethos that has become normative at Harvard — namely, the celebration of everything not American:
Harvard University announced on Wednesday its biggest curriculum overhaul in three decades, putting new emphasis on sensitive religious and cultural issues, the sciences and overcoming U.S. “parochialism.”
The curriculum at the oldest U.S. university has been criticized as focusing too narrowly on academic topics instead of real-life issues, or for being antagonistic to organized religion. Revisions have been in the works for three years.
One of the eight new required subject areas — “societies of the world” — aims to help students overcome U.S. “parochialism” by “acquainting them with the values, customs and institutions that differ from their own,” said a 34-page Harvard report on the changes.
The changes to the general-education requirements, imposed on students outside their major, still address religious beliefs and practices. Study of those issues, however, would be folded into a broader subject of “culture and belief.”
The “culture and belief” requirement will “introduce students to ideas, art and religion in the context of the social, political, religious, economic and cross-cultural conditions” that shape them, Harvard said. (Emphasis mine.)
Harvard is dressing up this change by saying it’s reversing its anti-religion trend, something conservatives have long contended is at odds with its founders’ intent. Nevertheless, when you read deeper into the article, you discover that Harvard is not, in fact, revisiting its religious roots, but is simply using religion as yet another avenue for multiculturalism:
Founded to train Puritan ministers 371 years ago, Harvard has been criticized by some conservatives in recent decades as a liberal bastion unfriendly toward religion.
A task force of six professors and two students which drafted the new curriculum said religion should be addressed, but only as one of several cultural influences.
“Harvard is a secular institution but religion is an important part of our students’ lives,” it said. It noted that 94 percent of Harvard’s incoming students report that they discuss religion “frequently” or “occasionally,” and 71 percent say that they attend religious services.
Incidentally, I’m a huge fan of comparative religious studies. One of my favorite books as a child was my sister’s comparative religion text book, which examined the world’s major religions. Learning about their history, moral attitudes, and practices was fascinating and mind-opening. In this day and age where religion is returning to prominence as a force in world events, something that feels like the 17th Century all over again, it’s more important than ever for people to know about world religion. (And some more than others.) However, I have my doubts about Harvard’s ability to address this subject as an intellectual topic and not as yet another vehicle to proselytize the internationalist, anti-American Harvard world view.
In addition to all of the above, Harvard is introducing something called “aesthetic and interpretative understanding,” a topic the Reuters article includes in quotes, because it’s clear that even Reuters doesn’t know what the Hell that is. Somehow I doubt whether the education Harvard young’uns are getting which actually improve as a result of these proposed changes.