Mar 132010
 

Yesterday was a good day. I got two beautifully crafted handmade books in the mail from Germany. One is a copy of Mark Twain’s The Awful German Language, with hand-printed lino cut illustrations, and the other is called To Touch and to Cut, a cleverly designed math-related miniature. They are by Buechertiger (aka Hilke). I know several book artists who used to be mathematicians, Hilke included. What’s the connection there?

As for the Mark Twain, I’d been following the making of it on Hilke’s blog. Having taken three years of German a long time ago when I was a university student, I was entertained by her choice of text. Looking through these books is a real treat! They are quite wonderful.

On a sadder note, though, I’m finding it a bit ironic to be reading this particular selection now. As many of you know, the situation at California’s state universities is dire. At my alma mater, Humboldt State, they are slashing programs and faculty and reducing the salaries of those who remain. Students are not only paying a lot more to attend, but they’re crammed into their classes, if they’re even fortunate enough to get into the ones they need. One of the programs that got the ax not too long ago was German.

We just heard from an acquaintance who teaches at the University of Nevada Reno that they have gone a step further. Their administrators are planning to eliminate the entire Foreign Languages and Literatures Department. No more French, German or Italian. Can you believe it? (If you’re on Facebook, the students have set up a page about it.) And now even as I was writing this, someone else told me that UCLA, where I once took multiple foreign languages and linguistics classes, is planning to do something similar.

Even though people always thought I was an art student, I didn’t actually major in art once I came to Humboldt State from UCLA. I had a double major in language studies and anthropology. It’s been quite a while now, and my working knowledge of the languages I studied is growing fuzzy. But learning them still was one of the greatest gifts I got from my education. It shocks me to think that course offerings in major European languages are now considered expendable at American universities.

That’s awful. Beyond awful.

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  8 Responses to “The Awful German Language… and the Awful State of American Higher Education”

Comments (8)
  1. I graduated from University of Nevada (Reno)in 1965 and my freshman year I took Latin 101 from Count Dandini. I wonder if any college or university even offers latin anymore?

  2. I wonder who still does. I took Latin at UCLA in the late 80s. Knowing that campus might now be axing French doesn't bode well for any kind of language learning.

  3. I am happy that you like your books, thanks for showing them off here :-)

    That they are closing down the language departments is really sad news (it's at least news to me). I always enjoyed learning languages, and were lucky enough that they had a good institute for languages at the university where I studied. At many German universities it is hard to get good language courses if you are not doing a degree in that language. But no foreign language departments at all?! – That's really sad, hardly believable!

  4. I'm very happy with my books, Buechertiger. I've been taking them around with me to show them off. They're wonderful.

    As for the distressing news about what's going on with the language departments here, it is completely unbelievable! And it's news to most people here too–a lot of these cutbacks are being done relatively quietly, with mostly only the students and faculty knowing what's going on. There is a real sense of despair among the people at many of the public universities in the US, that they are watching the dismantling of American higher education. It's not something I ever wanted to see in my lifetime.

  5. We are horrified, beyond horrified, about the languages. Jason just started ranting "Do they still have athletics? Sure! But languages? Heck no! We don't need to communicate with the world! Make em learn English!" ("The savages!" I add in).

  6. The latest from Humboldt State:

    "The first undergraduate programs to be considered for elimination are philosophy, liberal studies — elementary education, nursing, fisheries biology, oceanography, chemistry, physics, rangeland resources and wildland soils, computer information systems and computer science. The graduate programs to be considered first are English, kinesiology, and theater, film and dance, according to the senate and its reports…"

    As reported in the local paper: http://www.times-standard.com/ci_14645758

    Sure… a university doesn't need programs in chemistry, physics, philosophy… They already axed the German program. Maybe French will be next, following Nevada's lead.

  7. The latest from Humboldt State:

    "The first undergraduate programs to be considered for elimination are philosophy, liberal studies — elementary education, nursing, fisheries biology, oceanography, chemistry, physics, rangeland resources and wildland soils, computer information systems and computer science. The graduate programs to be considered first are English, kinesiology, and theater, film and dance, according to the senate and its reports…"

    As reported in the local paper: http://www.times-standard.com/ci_14645758

    Sure… a university doesn't need programs in chemistry, physics, philosophy… They already axed the German program. Maybe French will be next, following Nevada's lead.

  8. I am happy that you like your books, thanks for showing them off here :-)

    That they are closing down the language departments is really sad news (it's at least news to me). I always enjoyed learning languages, and were lucky enough that they had a good institute for languages at the university where I studied. At many German universities it is hard to get good language courses if you are not doing a degree in that language. But no foreign language departments at all?! – That's really sad, hardly believable!

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