Most of the time, I think people start arguments because they have nothing better to do. Or because they love the sound of their own voice and they think that because they hold a certain opinion, it is the opinion that everyone else should have.
You think gay couples shouldn’t be allowed to get married? Cool.
You think Madison looks ridiculous in that sweater? Awesome.
You think only the American and British classics deserve to be taught in literature classes? Delightful.
I don’t care.
Agree to disagree.
The second people start devoting large chunks of their personal time crying, “CRISIS. WE HAVE A CRISIS!” about anything that isn’t a life or death situation, part of me wants to roll my eyes and part of me wants to slap them upside the head.
I am not arguing against change in the humanities. I think I am all for it. But I also think there are more important things to worry about than what we’re reading. In Henry Louis Gates Jr’s “Pluralism and Its Discontents,” he talks about the bigger problems that face our education systems. “Because the truth is,” he says, “that curricular changes in history or literature are irrelevant is a kid doesn’t know how to read or write or add.” These are problems worth spending time worrying about. Go out there are teach people the basics and then they will be informed enough to make decisions for themselves. Gates continues on in saying that “the only way to transcend those divisions… is through education that seeks to comprehend the diversity of human culture.” I feel as though, as an English major, I know more about the world than I ever would have if I had, God forbid, studied math. I have been given the opportunity to learn about the history of the world, as well as contemporary understanding of cultures, people, and events around the world.
Another point that Gates makes that I feel is important to understanding what it is that we should be experiencing in university is when he uses the metaphor of comparing education to traveling. In this section he says that if we must have decided on who we truly are when we reach the outside world, then while in school, we must be everyone possible. I find this to resound quite well with what I believe about an English education. I have traveled to the Congo, Tintern Abbey, and high school classrooms in Maine. I have been teenage boys, a dying cancer patient, and a knight in shining armor. All without ever leaving the LAC.
More or less, I think that people need to calm down. Let us read whatever we want. Mix it up. Give us a bit of everything. Because that’s what life is going to give us.