Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Delbanco on Obama

In a NY Times article about the struggle by university humanities departments to demonstrate their relevance in tough economic times, Andrew Delbanco (author of a great biography of Herman Melville) suggests that Barack Obama embodies the value of studying the humanities:

“He does something academic humanists have not been doing well in recent years,” he said of a president who invokes Shakespeare and Faulkner, Lincoln and W. E. B. Du Bois. “He makes people feel there is some kind of a common enterprise, that history, with its tragedies and travesties, belongs to all of us, that we have something in common as Americans.”

1 comment:

meyermeyer said...

I was thinking something similar, lately. Of course in education, the test is king and everyone must bow. Education consultants are pushing now for English classes to do more nonfiction, since "that's what most of these kids will encounter in their day to day lives." So now all schools are trade schools? All schools are to serve the purpose of training students for a job instead of addressing larger life issues?

The metaphor could be made, does a student want to be George Bush or Barack Obama. The Barack Obamas understand the value of going beyond the minimum--of enriching one's life with connections beyond the self. The George Bushes are happy with the bare minimum, preferring to get drunk, high, play video games or watch TV. The George Bushes would reassure themselves that, "hey, I'm president. I can do whatever I want."

I don't know. Maybe February has gotten to me too much. Maybe I've taken this metaphor too far. Maybe I forgot my medication this morning. I think it's the last one.