Follow Sunlit Uplands by E-Mail

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Scholars Publish Study of College Summer Reading Assignments

Beach Books: What do colleges and universities want students to read outside of class?

By Michael R. Cook

The National Association of Scholars publishes an annual study of college summer reading assignments.  The NAS study is quite revealing -- and provides disturbing evidence that the traditional aim of higher education, the pursuit of truth, has been replaced by a dubious amalgam of moral relativism and political correctness.

The NAS study lists and categorizes the books assigned as summer reading to incoming college freshmen.  Almost invariably, the books assigned in these common reading programs are recent works of questionable quality.  These books seem to be selected primarily on the basis of the "values" (i.e., political messages) they impart. 

The classic works of literature, history, philosophy, and science are almost never assigned.

The NAS study is worth reviewing in its entirety, but pages 1-5 (Executive Summary) and 22-23 (The Fall of Literature) are especially interesting. 

Also worth noting is a list of books the NAS recommends as alternatives to the drivel that colleges currently assign in their summer reading programs.  The NAS list, which begins on page 78 of the study, includes the kinds of works one supposes students will read during their college careers (but one shouldn't hold one's breath!). 

Every year the NAS offers such a list, and every year the colleges ignore it.

The NAS study highlights the lamentable fact that the "great books" -- along with the great ideas -- have for the most part been banished from college curricula, in favor of a politicized patchwork of courses emphasizing race, class, and gender grievances.

Surely this cannot be what Thomas Jefferson had in mind when he founded the University of Virginia.

College tuition, room and board is fast approaching $60,000 per year at elite private institutions.  But our colleges and universities -- including the elite ones -- seem to be pursuing the educational mission with less and less seriousness.