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Letters to the Editor

Letter: ‘Intellectual shrub’

August 28, 2014

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To the editor:

As a non-resident, I won’t comment on concerns expressed in Dolph Simons’ Aug. 23 column that Lawrence might have lost its civic mojo. But I would like to address his fears that Kansas University no longer aspires to Chancellor Franklin Murphy’s hope that the university will become one of the “giant redwoods” of American higher education.

When I was KU student body president in the late 1960s, Chancellor Laurence Chalmers showed me a survey in a higher education journal listing KU and Wisconsin as the nation’s two best public universities between Michigan in the east and Cal-Berkeley in the West. In contrast, the latest U.S. News ratings put KU in the nether regions of American universities, in the company of such schools as Oklahoma, Nebraska and Missouri that once couldn’t hold a candle to KU. And it’s not because those colleges have significantly improved; it’s because KU has deteriorated.

The latest evidence of this decline of academic quality was KU’s recent decision to eliminate the Western Civilization requirement and adopt an intellectually incoherent, dumbed-down general education curriculum. The changes ensure that large numbers of KU students will graduate without any contact with Plato, Locke, Madison and other shapers of our culture.

Those changes dovetail with the current KU administration’s goal to raise retention and graduation numbers. Of course, the easiest way to enhance those metrics is to gut academic rigor. Instead of a “giant redwood,” KU today more closely resembles an intellectual shrub.

Comments

Ken Lassman 4 months ago

Since Dr. Murphy was more specific in his metaphor, using the term "redwood," may I nominate a more specific, species-specific shrub to tie down your shrub allusion? I suggest the Kansas native shrub, Rhus triloba, which has wildlife-friendly fruit but also, being a distant cousin to poison ivy, has the potential to irritate, accompanied by a distinctive odor to the vegetation when cut that gives it the common name: skunk bush.

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