This poem talks about how our attention is so easily distracted, by things of little importance, causing us to neglect things of value. This may be a factor of youth, or busy-ness, or indifference. Who knows.
But the headline, that Howard University was cutting its classics department made me weep a little. It’s like cutting off your nose, to spite your face. Add departments if need be, but don’t crush the very foundation of modern thought.
While the vast majority of us are busy with our smartphones, rather than paying attention, this country seems to be reshuffling its values. The things, that people in my generation thought were good and true and noble, even sacrosanct, are being questioned, and duly unmasked, as evil, sullied or worthless. It’s hard to imagine how any tradition or value, let alone any person, could survive such dismissiveness.
We now live in a world without experts, where everyone has a microphone, and most of what is being said is drivel. Yet it has an equal right to exist, since there is no generally accepted standard, against which to measure quality. Or truth, for that matter.
It alarms me, that the merest taint of association with past wrongs can disqualify concepts, institutions and principled people. The mere fact that something has been around for 2500 years should be enough to earn it a merit badge, in my book. A nice defense of retaining the classics and the Western canon in higher education at historically black colleges is found in this Washington Post opinion piece.
But apparently some believe we have nothing left to learn from the forefathers of Western thought. In fact, just using the term “Western,” in some circles, is itself considered racist, imperialist, and a tool of white supremacist oppression. Categorizing thought in political terms is a great way to squelch it. At this rate, everyone will end up thinking like birds, judging quality on the basis of shininess.
It’s enough to make you write a poem.
May we all, eventually, regain a sense of our common priorities. Until then, thanks for coming by to read.
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Poetry has no currency
And Expertise, no weight;
Beauty, no legitimacy;
Age, we spurn and hate.
All Learning is despised.
While Wisdom’s wit is so passé:
Much less in vogue, than lies.
We wallow in false perception.
We collect all sparkly things.
Our eyes glaze over, as we gaze.
Our “knowledge” gives us wings.
We flit from branch to branch to branch,
And echo what we hear.
Poor History is dead and gone.
The Now rings in our ears.
Why Toil and Labor? Though the grass
Grows high around our hips…
How its sparkles,
At our fingertips.
Copyright 2021 Andrea LeDew
For a tongue-in-cheek mother’s view of her eighteen-year-old, read Eighteen. For a more traditional approach to work and things of value, read Honest Work.
Call me a fool, but I still believe in the eternal verities of a classical education
Me too, Liz. I hope this is not the beginning of a trend to end access to those schools of thought we no longer subscribe to one hundred percent. I am more of a “defeat bad ideas through the process of critical examination to expose their flaws” sort of girl.
Though I cannot claim to be classically educated myself.
Its like a former religious education director at our church once said: how many of you received your (religious) education in the seventies? Ok, well all of you might as well have received no education at all. 😊
There is a whole branch of homeschooling that tries to emulate the components of an education like many of our American Founding fathers likely received. These include learning Latin and Greek and reading the Greco-Roman anthology in the original. I myself did not have the fortitude to muscle through such an endeavor but there is little doubt that it builds strong minds.
In high school and in World Lit in college we did have to read many of the ancient works in translation, either in excerpt or in full. But my fondest memories of the classics were from my two years of Latin in high school, with a very talented and entertaining Southern dame of a certain age.
This announcement by Howard would certainly have given her the vapors!
The deconstructionism and relativism of literary theory in grad school just about drove me around the bend. The other thing I would add to the current movement toward censorship is that when social mores and history change, then we read and interpret the classic works with new eyes. We don’t get rid of them!!