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Opinion | What Students Read Before They Protest

๐ŸŒˆ Abstract

The article discusses the core curriculum at elite universities, particularly Columbia University, and how it reflects the current consensus of important ideas and theories in academia that are shaping future leaders, including those involved in campus protests.

๐Ÿ™‹ Q&A

[01] What Students Read Before They Protest

1. What was the author's experience with the "core curriculum" at the college they attended as an undergraduate?

  • The author's college offered a "core curriculum" that was actually a grab bag of courses from different disciplines, rather than a defined set of foundational courses and assignments.
  • The idea was to expose students to a variety of approaches to knowledge, but there was no real difference between taking a survey class on poetry or a class on women writers in imperial China.

2. How did the author view the core curriculum at Columbia University in comparison?

  • The author looked with envy at Columbia University, where the core curriculum still offered a defined set of important works that every undergraduate was expected to encounter.
  • Columbia insisted on exposing students to some version of the "best that has been thought and said," despite the belief that multiculturalism required dismantling the canon.

3. What is the purpose of the Columbia core curriculum, according to the author?

  • The Columbia core curriculum gives a clear look into the ideas and theories that the current consensus of elite academia deems important for forming citizens and future leaders, including those involved in campus protests.
  • It helps pin down the general impulses that can be seen across the meritocracy, from Ivy League universities to selective high schools.

4. What are some of the key components of the Columbia core curriculum?

  • The requirements include many of the traditional great books, such as Genesis, Job, Aeschylus, Shakespeare, Adam Smith, and Alexis de Tocqueville.
  • It also includes readings in the sciences and exposure to music and fine arts, as well as sources intended to diversify the traditional core and bring it up to date, including from the medieval, early modern, and 20th century periods.
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