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“A Spiritual Catastrophe” - Reflections from Dean Verhoeven
Professor Cornel West of Harvard University and Jeremy Tate recently co-wrote a piece in the Washington Post: “Howard University’s removal of classics is a spiritual catastrophe.” As a classics-based curriculum, DRBU finds these timeless texts to be crucial for the full development of an individual. Dean of Academics Professor Martin Verhoeven shares his thoughts on this important issue:
There are four notable points.
One, the classics are a “conversation,” and that we “add our own voices” to that discussion. It is a discussion, not a dogma that is being passed along. That means “evolving,” “adjusting,” “tweaking,” even “disagreeing”—all of which make it grow and “grow richer.” Challenging, considering, reconsidering, and continuing—not canceling. So instead of seeing the classics as a canon of final and eternal Truths, West and DRBU see them as a provocative and thoughtful starting point for a rich inquiry “in pursuit of truth.”
Second, the important inclusion of “voices from everywhere else in the world,” makes such inquiry liberal, critical, inclusive and not just cultural programming.
Third, the “voices” may differ, disagree, even clash, but they are all talking about “the most fundamental questions:” questions of universal and abiding purchase. And as such, and probably more critical, they are not about what to think, but more about how to think, and, as West notes, “about learning to attend to the things that matter, and turning our attention away from what is superficial.”
Finally, West hits the nail on the head: all this knowledge is decorative, perhaps useless, even harmful, if not accompanied by attention to “the maturation and cultivation of spiritually intact and morally equipped human beings"—the very heart of education at DRBU.