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March 06, 2013 2:19 PM Making a Liberal-Arts Education Pay

By Mark Bauerlein

There is one complication, however. To qualify as a “core,” these courses must be filled with the very best works of our civilization. They assign Virgil, not contemporary fiction; W.E.B. Du Bois’s social commentaries, not recent tracts on social networking; Ingmar Bergman’s films, not Michael Moore’s. These works are concerned less with today’s topics than with perennial matters.

To some of us, this is strength. To others, core programs are too narrow, too white-male and Eurocentric. That may be true, but if colleges want to preserve the liberal arts from jobs-obsessed politicians, these curricula are bulletproof. Politicians may make fun of gender studies without reprisal, but none of them will say, “I don’t want students to waste time on ‘The Odyssey,’ the Declaration of Independence and the Cold War.”

Mark Bauerlein is a professor of English at Emory University and an occasional contributor to Bloomberg View.