The Promise of Education - David Denby

David Denby

February 8, 2018 | 7 p.m. | 3508 Knauss Hall, WMU

“The Humanities in the Age of Demagoguery”

The results of the presidential election of 2016 and the months after the Presidential inauguration suggest that the habits of mind ideally inculcated by both the humanities (an appreciation of human complexity, a respect for observed and imaginative truth, moral intelligence) and the sciences (respect for observable evidence and experimental trial) have not really taken hold in a large part of the country. Public discourse has been poisoned by the politically opportunistic abandonment of observable truth and moral reasoning. How has this situation come about? Are the humanities, including serious reading at all levels of education and later life, capable of exerting some check on these tendencies? Or are we lost in an age of ideology in which any truth claims are absurd?

David Denby was born in New York in 1943, and went to Columbia, the Columbia Journalism School, and Stanford's Communication program. He was a movie critic for forty-five years, at The Atlantic, The Boston Phoenix, New York Magazine (1978-98), and The New Yorker (1998-2014). He has published two books on reading and teaching, "Great Books" (1996), a study of Columbia's core curriculum program, and "Lit Up" (2016), an account of tenth-grade English at three public schools in America. His other books are the autobiographical "American Sucker" (2004), devoted to greed and loss during the tech-bubble era; "Snark" (2008), an analysis of low sarcasm in journalism and politics; and "Do the Movies Have a Future?" (2012), a collection of his best movie writing from The New Yorker.