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Dean Nicholson Challenges WSJ Editorial on Hum 110

Says Wall Street Journal editorial board mischaracterizes the changes to Hum 110.

By Chris Lydgate ’90 | April 26, 2018

Dean of the Faculty Nigel Nicholson says the Wall Street Journal editorial board  “went off the rails” when it accused Reed of bowing to bullies by revising the curriculum for Hum 110. His response was published on April 26.

The WSJ editorial, which was published April 20, accused Reed of “succumb(ing) to demands to let politics trump education” when it expanded the curriculum beyond the ancient Mediterranean to include units on Mexico City and Harlem.

Prof. Nicholson, a classics scholar, said the editorial mischaracterized Reed’s decision to revise Hum 110 solely as the result of student protest, when in fact the faculty have been discussing the syllabus for years.

He also pointed out that the changes to the curriculum “do not pick a side in any culture wars” but are focused on the educational goals of Hum 110, which include analyzing fundamental humanistic questions and exploring civilizations from multiple perspectives.

The editorial handpicked comments and tactics that were made during the year-long protest of the course to suit its narrative, and refused to acknowledge the intellectual underpinnings of the changes.

The WSJ also implied that Reed is complicit in blocking the study of what it called the “core texts of Western civilization,” a suggestion which Nicholson characterized as little short of bizarre.

“On the one hand, the new Hum 110 curriculum, which is still required of all firstyears, contains many texts that even the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal would describe as core texts of Western Civilization,” he told Reed Magazine. “On the other hand, the idea of ‘core texts of Western Civilization’ is in dire need of interrogation. Do these not include more modern texts? Do these not include American texts? If they don't, perhaps they should.”

The WSJ editorial lies behind a paywall. However, the editorial has been reposted elsewhere.

Tags: Academics, Institutional, Professors