Culture shift

THE humanities - literature, art, history - have been a given in the academic world. You go to college, study them, and emerge a more rounded person. In a new report, Lynne Cheney, chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, indicates it's hardly that simple anymore. The humanities are wilting on college campuses, she says. One in 16 students is now majoring in the humanities, compared with 1 in 6 twenty years ago. Why? Lack of a solid core curriculum, subordination of teaching to publishing, and a tendency to interpret great books along limited political lines, for instance.

At the same time, the humanities are ``blossoming'' among the general public, Mrs. Cheney notes. More people are going to museums and participating in local historical societies. Americans are actually spending more on cultural events than on sports events these days.

Are the plebeians telling the academic patricians something?

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