Press Releases | General Education

Alumni and Students Protest Dropping Great Authors from College Requirements

ACTA's Newsletter Inside Academe Reports the Trend at Georgetown and Other Universities to Drop Shakespeare and Other Great Authors from College Requirements
June 26, 1996

WASHINGTON, DC—Writers, actors, students and alumni are challenging the trend at Georgetown and other universities to drop Shakespeare and other great authors from college requirements, according to the lead story of the spring issue of Inside Academe, a quarterly publication of the National Alumni Forum (NAF). Their protest comes in the wake of the decision by Georgetown to eliminate the requirement that English majors study at least two of Shakespeare, Chaucer, and Milton.

Former poet laureate Anthony Hecht, cultural commentator Michael Medved, and other prominent actors and scholars joined Georgetown students and alumni at a televised teach-in called “Saving Shakespeare” organized in April by the NAF.

“Shakespeare and other great authors are being dropped from course requirements across the country. This trend shortchanges students and contributes to the dumbing down of America,” said NAF president Jerry L. Martin.

Statements supporting the effort included those from actor Charlton Heston, Nobel Laureate Saul Bellow, New Republic publisher Martin Peretz, American Repertory Theater artistic director Robert Brustein, Georgetown alumnus and Exorcist author William Peter Blatty, as well as professors, students and other alumni.

Also reported in Inside Academe:

Two recent reports document a troubling decline in undergraduate education: The landmark study of the National Association of Scholars, “The Dissolution of General Education, 1914-1993,” shows virtual elimination of basic surveys of standard subjects such as history, literature, philosophy and the natural sciences. Meanwhile, diversity requirements are replacing many of the general education requirements imposed in the past, according to a report by the Young America’s Foundation. “The message is clear: many of our institutions of higher education are failing to provide our students with a strong, coherent education,” said Lynne V. Cheney, chairman of the NAF.

College and university trustees across the country are initiating a comprehensive, long-term plan to develop trustee leadership as a force for higher education reform: Known as the ATHENA project, Alumni and Trustees for Higher Education Accountability, the NAF project is designed to revolutionize university governance just as members of corporate boards have begun to educate themselves and exert more influence over companies they direct. “It is very difficult for trustees to exercise their responsibilities with regard to the content and quality of academic programs,” states University of Chicago life trustee and FMC Executive Committee chairman Robert H. Malott in discussing the trustee project. “Trustees of leading colleges and universities need to put their heads together to find ways to meet this challenge.”

Inside Academe is published quarterly by the National Alumni Forum, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization based in Washington, DC Any materials or quotes from the publication should be attributed to Inside Academe.


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