Notable & Quotable: Donald Kagan

‘Universities, he proposed, are failing students and hurting American democracy.’

Aug. 12, 2021 6:30 pm ET

Historian Donald Kagan. Photo: Yale/Michael Marsland

From the Journal’s April 27, 2013, Weekend Interview with historian Donald Kagan, who died Aug. 6 at 89:

For his “farewell lecture” here at Yale . . . the 80-year-old scholar . . . uncorked a biting critique of American higher education.

Universities, he proposed, are failing students and hurting American democracy. . . . He counseled schools to adopt “a common core of studies” in the history, literature and philosophy “of our culture.” . . .

This might once have been called incitement. In 1990, as dean of Yale College, Mr. Kagan argued for the centrality of the study of Western civilization in an “infamous” (his phrase) address to incoming freshmen. A storm followed. He was called a racist—or as the campus daily more politely editorialized, a peddler of “European cultural arrogance.”



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