Classics get the cold shoulder

October 11, 1996

Academics in the United States are more interested in preparing their students for careers than in teaching them the classic works of Western civilisation.

Those are among the findings of the third national survey of 34,000 staff by the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles.

Linda Sax, lead author of the survey, said: "There's a perception of the very liberal professor in the ivory tower doing research and not interested in students. What we're finding is, that's not true."

Only 17 per cent of academics said they spend more than 12 hours a week doing research, compared with 23 per cent in the first survey in 1989. Staff said they thought it was important to be good teachers, but only 28 per cent called it "essential" or "very important" to teach the classic works of Western civilisation compared to 35 per cent seven years ago.

But 70 per cent think it is essential to prepare students for employment after college, up from 62 per cent in 1989. "Faculty are having to be more realistic about what lies ahead for students," Ms Sax said. "Their main thing is preparing students for careers. That used to be very much looked down on, but with the job market the way it is, there's no choice."

Only 24 per cent say students are well-prepared academically, and about a third blame this on greater intake of minorities. And 61 per cent said students were a major source of stress, up from 50 per cent.

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