J.M. Coetzee Weighs In

DisgraceJ.M. Coetzee, winner of the Nobel prize in literature, has written the foreword for the new Academic Freedom in a Democratic South Africa, a book written by a fellow professor at the University of Cape Town.

Like some of the posts on this blog by myself and others, Coetzee is extremely pessimistic about the ability of universities to continue to provide a humanistic education.

First, in the face of a decades-long ideological assault on universities’ independence, they have opted for cooperation with rather than resistance to reduced financing by governments.

Second,  even in instances where the importance of humanistic cultural and reasoning skills is acknowledged, people argue successfully that students can acquire those skills much more easily and cheaply by two or three standardized courses of instruction, rather than by an entire university “built on humanistic grounds, with philosophical, historical and philological studies as its pillars.”