Phi Beta Cons

ACTA and Shakespeare

ACTA’s blog has some clips on its Shakespeare report here, and some of the statements in different newspapers are worth repeating:

In addition, the report found with Shakespeare requirements declining, universities are offering more courses on popular culture, children’s literature, sociology and politics.
At Dartmouth College, for example, one course titled “Of Nags, Bitches and Shrews: Women and Animals in Western Literature,” discusses topics on how women’s rights correspond with advances toward the treatment of animals and why women choose to work for these advances.
Similarly, at the University of Pennsylvania, a class is devoted to the “cult of a celebrity,” examining pop idols and famous people such as Greta Garbo and Madonna.
“In most of today’s English departments, Shakespeare is no longer required reading,” Ann Neal, president of ACTA, said in a release. “Instead, [Shakespeare] is an elective–no more important than a course on Madonna and ‘bodies studies.’ What are these colleges thinking?”


Only two Bay Area universities were even surveyed — UC Berkeley and Stanford, obviously — and both are among the minority maintaining higher standards. Harvard remains credible, as well, as do Wellesley, Smith and UCLA. But the schools that have let things slide include such notable names as Amherst, Cornell, Northwestern, Dartmouth, Oberlin, Purdue, Vassar and Bryn Mawr. As the report states, “A degree in English without Shakespeare is like an M.D. without a course in anatomy. … It is tantamount to fraud.”
Not that Shakespeare is in any danger of disappearing from our cultural landscape. His works continue to dominate American stages by a factor of at least 10-to-1 over any other playwright. There are summer Shakespeare festivals just about everywhere you look, with at least 18 in Northern California alone. But parents of college-age sons and daughters should take heed: Looks as if your literary-minded scholar-to-be can get a better education at Stanford or Berkeley than at Bard-snubbing Columbia, Princeton or Yale.


Oklahoma State University

Mandates Shakespeare courses only for English majors getting a teaching certificate in English.

Carol Moder, head of OSU’s English department, said Shakespeare used to be required of all English majors but the curriculum changed several years ago “to bring the requirements more into line with developments in the field, which allow for more thematically based courses and greater diversity in the authors studied.”
“The reason for allowing other students to choose whether to take Shakespeare is to allow them greater flexibility in developing their course work to meet their career goals,” Moder said.
University of Oklahoma

Does not require Shakespeare courses for undergrads.

Shakespeare is a popular elective at OU, professor Alan Velie said. While he thinks all students ought to study Shakespeare, he thinks the number of required classes should be kept to a minimum. “I think our majors should know the great American authors as well, and the Bible, but we would not require courses on those subjects either,” Velie said.