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2011年考研英语阅读理解A B部分原文
Text 1

  文章选自不是很热门的一本杂志“Commentary” 2007年9月号,原文作者 TERRY TEACHOUT 题目为 Selling Classical Music。

September 2007

The decision of the New York Philharmonic to hire Alan Gilbert as its next music director has been the talk of the classical-music world ever since the sudden announcement in July of his appointment to succeed Lorin Maazel in 2009. For the most part, the response has been favorable, to say the least. “Hooray! At last!” wrote Anthony Tommasini, the sober-sided classical-music critic of the New York Times.

One of the reasons why the appointment came as such a surprise, however, is that Gilbert is comparatively little known. He is chief conductor of the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra and recently spent three years as music director of the Santa Fe Opera. Both posts are undeniably important, but neither can fairly be described as a high-profile job. And while Gilbert has also led the New York Philharmonic in 31 concerts since making his debut with the orchestra six years ago, these appearances, though they were for the most part well received by critics and concertgoers, did not win for him anything remotely approaching universal acclaim.

Even Tommasini, who had advocated Gilbert’s appointment in the Times, calls him “an unpretentious musician with no whiff of the formidable maestro about him.” As a description of the next music director of an orchestra that has hitherto been led by (among others) Gustav Mahler, Willem Mengelberg, Arturo Toscanini, Sir John Barbirolli, Bruno Walter, Dimitri Mitropoulos, Leonard Bernstein, and Pierre Boulez, that seems likely to have struck at least some Times readers as faint praise.

For my part, I have no idea whether Gilbert is a great conductor or even a good one. I have never seen him conduct, or listened to any of the handful of recordings he has made to date. Nothing that I read about his Philharmonic concerts made me feel any urgent need to go and hear them. To be sure, he performs an impressive variety of interesting compositions, but it is not necessary for me to visit Avery Fisher Hall, or anywhere else, to hear interesting orchestral music. All I have to do is go to my CD shelf, or boot up my computer and download still more recorded music from iTunes.

Devoted concertgoers who reply that recordings are no substitute for live performance are missing the point. For the time, attention, and money of the art-loving public, classical instrumentalists must compete not only with opera houses, dance troupes, theater companies, and museums, but also with the recorded performances of the great classical musicians of the 20th century. These recordings are cheap, ubiquitously available, and very often much higher in artistic quality than today’s live performances; moreover, they can be “consumed” at a time and place of the listener’s choosing. The widespread availability of such recordings of the standard repertory has thus brought about a crisis in the institution of the traditional classical concert, one to which most classical musicians have been fatally slow to respond.

One possible response is for classical performers to program attractive new music that is not yet available on record. Gilbert’s own interest in new music has been widely noted: Alex Ross, the classical-music critic of the New Yorker, has described him as “a man with an inquisitive, contemporary mind” who is capable of turning the Philharmonic into “a markedly different, more vibrant organization.” But what will be the nature of that difference? Merely tinkering with the orchestra’s repertoire will not be enough. If Gilbert and the Philharmonic are to succeed, they must first change the relationship between America’s oldest orchestra and the new audience it hopes to attract.

_____________

 

The news stories reporting Gil-bert’s appointment all made conspicuous mention of the fact that he is forty years old. The New York Philharmonic, far from coincidentally, has the oldest-looking audience of any major arts organization whose performances I have attended in recent years. Other orchestras are grappling with the same problem, and one of them, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, has responded by taking the even more drastic step of hiring as its next music director a conductor considerably younger than Gilbert, the twenty-six-year-old Gustavo Dudamel. But it is unlikely that the youthfulness of Dudamel and Gilbert will be sufficient in and of itself to persuade anyone under thirty to come to their concerts. The generation gap in classical music goes far deeper than that.

A half-century ago, the New York Philharmonic hired another forty-year-old music director who promptly put the orchestra at the center of postwar American culture. But Leonard Bernstein was already famous when he succeeded Dimitri Mitropoulos. By 1958, he had scored four Broadway musicals and a Hollywood movie, made the most highly publicized conducting debut in the history of American classical music, made dozens of major-label recordings, and spent countless hours talking about music on network TV.

Alan Gilbert, by contrast, has done none of those things, nor will he have the opportunity to do anything like them. The fault lies not in his abilities, such as they are, but in the fact that the days of the celebrity conductor are over. Even if he proves to be a conductor comparable in quality to Bernstein, there is no possibility whatsoever that he will become as famous as Bernstein.

Why is this so? Because our predominantly popular culture has withdrawn its attention from classical music. The means by which a classical musician could once become famous thus no longer exist. Major labels no longer record this music except sporadically, just as the national media no longer cover it with any frequency.

No less alarming is a parallel musical development described by Dana Gioia, the chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, in a widely noted commencement address delivered at Stanford University earlier this year:

At fifty-six, I am just old enough to remember a time when every public high school in this country had a music program with choir and band, usually a jazz band, too, sometimes even an orchestra. . . . This once-visionary and democratic system has been almost entirely dismantled by well-meaning but myopic school boards, county commissioners, and state officials, with the federal government largely indifferent to the issue. Art became an expendable luxury, and 50 million students have paid the price.

To be sure, part of the key to Alan Gilbert’s ultimate success or failure will lie in the quality of his music-making. But it will be at least as important for him to find new ways of reaching out to a generation of Americans who know little or nothing about classical music. It is highly unlikely, for instance, that he will have any luck getting on The Late Show with David Letterman, or persuading Time and Newsweek to put him on their covers. Although there are other means than these of communicating with younger listeners, few classical musicians seem to be aware of them, much less know how to use them effectively.

Does Gilbert understand how the new web-based media work? Does the management of the Philharmonic understand? If they do, are they prepared to make a sustained commitment to using these new media to communicate with the public—and will they send the right message?

_____________

 

To grasp the nature and scope of the problems faced by Gilbert and the Philharmonic, it is useful to consider the career of Beverly Sills, who died a few days before Gilbert’s appointment was announced.

In an age of short cultural memories, it is noteworthy how wide-spread an outpouring of regret attended the death of a seventy-eight-year-old opera singer who had retired from the stage nearly 30 years before, especially a singer who was poorly represented by her records, few of which were made when she was in her prime.1 This means that relatively few of the people who mourned Sills’s death could have had any real understanding of why she became famous in the first place—yet they mourned her all the same.

The reason for their sorrow was to be found in Sills’s obituaries, all of which devoted much space to describing her regular appearances on such popular TV series as Tonight, The Carol Burnett Show, and The Muppet Show. These appearances won her the affection of millions of people who would otherwise never have heard of her. Taken together, they may well have been the most consequential thing she ever did.

Sills was not the only American classical musician of her day to reach out to a mass audience. Leonard Bernstein did the same thing, albeit in a more sophisticated way—but his message was the same. Among the first Young People’s Concerts that I saw on TV as a child was a program about American music. At the end, Bernstein introduced an ordinary-looking man in a business suit who proceeded to conduct the finale of a work he had written. The man, Bernstein explained, was Aaron Copland, and the piece was his Third Symphony, one of the permanent masterpieces of American art. Young as I was, I understood the point Bernstein was driving at: the making of classical music is a normal human activity, something that people do for a living, the same way they paint houses or cut hair.

Sills sent the same message every time she appeared on TV. As she explained in an interview conducted a year before her death:

In general, [people] thought of [opera singers as] big fat ladies with horns coming out of their heads. They also thought that opera singers were primarily foreign. I think Johnny [Carson] felt that a lot of people thought we were hothouse plants and that I could help change that image by showing that we led ordinary lives with families and children and problems.

At the time Bernstein and Sills were sending this message, in their different ways, relatively few American classical musicians knew how urgently it needed to be received. Now they—and we—know better.

_____________

 

Greg Sandow, one of the first critics to have recognized the extent of the crisis of the traditional classical concert, recently made a remark on his classical-music blog (www.artsjournal.com/sandow) that bears repeating:

The [fine] arts—as an enterprise separate from our wider culture, and somehow standing above it—are over. . . . [A]ny attempt to revive them (this includes classical music, of course) will have to mean that they engage popular culture, and everything else going on in the outside world.

Up to a point, I believe Sandow is correct. If we want to see a revival of the middlebrow culture of the pre-Vietnam era, in which most middle-class Americans who were not immersed in the fine arts were nonetheless aware and respectful of them and frequently made an effort to engage with them through the mass media, then high-culture artists will have to learn how to use today’s mass media in the same way and to the same ends.

Should we attempt to revive the old middlebrow culture? After all, there is a serious case to be made for not doing so: the case, in brief, for artistic elitism. The critic Clement Greenberg put it best in the pages of Commentary a half-century ago when he claimed that “it is middlebrow, not lowbrow, culture that does most nowadays to cut the social ground from under high culture.2 Greenberg's point is still arguable—but there is no getting around the fact that if you care about the continuing fate of symphony orchestras, museums, ballet, opera, and theater companies, and all the other costly institutions that were the pillars of American high culture in the 20th century, you must accept that these elitist enterprises cannot survive without the wholehearted support of a non-elite democratic public that believes in their significance.

Leonard Bernstein and Beverly Sills apprehended this, and did something about it. Perhaps more than any other American classical musicians of their generation, they did their best to communicate to ordinary middle-class Americans the notion that the fruits of high culture are accessible to all who make a good-faith effort to understand them. While that may not be strictly or wholly true, it is largely true—and an ennobling idea. I would not be greatly surprised if Sills in particular is remembered for delivering this message long after the specifics of her performing career are forgotten.

Alas, the message has to a considerable extent been forgotten by the orchestra that Bernstein led. To be sure, the New York Philharmonic, like all American orchestras, works hard at cultivating new audiences—but since Bernstein’s time, its efforts in this direction have rarely involved its music directors. Neither Kurt Masur nor Lorin Maazel made any serious attempt to reach beyond the purview of their regular duties to communicate the significance of classical music to a mass audience. Like most conductors of their generation, they saw their job as purely musical, and took for granted that its value would be appreciated by the larger community they served.

Alan Gilbert will not have that luxury. Instead, he must start from scratch. He must realize, first of all, that mere exposure to the masterpieces of Western classical music does not ensure immediate recognition and acceptance of their greatness—least of all when those doing the exposing make it clear that they expect young audiences to like what they are hearing, on pain of being dismissed as stupid.

This condescending attitude is part of the “entitlement mentality” that has long prevented our high-culture institutions from coming fully to grips with the problem of audience development. Too many classical musicians still think that they deserve the support of the public, not that they have to earn it. One of the signal virtues of America’s middlebrow culture was that for the most part it steered clear of this mentality. Its spokesmen—Bernstein foremost among them—believed devoutly in their responsibility to preach the gospel of art to all men in all conditions, and did so with an effectiveness that our generation can only envy.

I sincerely hope that Alan Gilbert will prove to be a great conductor. But I have no doubt that it is far more important to the future of classical music in America for him to be a great communicator, one who finds new ways to do what Leonard Bernstein did so superlatively well in the days of the middlebrow. And I suspect that his will be the harder task: to make the case for high culture to a generation that is increasingly ignorant, if not downright disdainful, of its life-changing power and glory.

Footnotes

1 Sills's commercial recording of the New York City Opera's 1966 production of Handel's Jullius Caesar, conducted by Julius Rudel, gives a clear idea of what she sounded like in her peak years (RCA Victor Gold Seal 6182-2-RG, two CD's).

2 "The Plight of Our Culture, Part II: Work and Leisure Under Industrialism" (July 1953).


About the Author

Terry Teachout, COMMENTARY’s chief culture critic and the drama critic of the Wall Street Journal, is the author of Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong.

Text 2

  文章选自Business Week 商业周刊 2009年11月5日,原文作者Jena McGregor 原文的题目是Top Managers Are Quitting, Without a New Job:顶级经理人在离职,新工作还没着落。

http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/09_46/b4155072824076.htm

When Liam McGee departed as president of Bank of America (BAC) in August, his explanation was surprisingly straight up. Rather than cloak his exit in the usual murky euphemisms, he came right out and said he was leaving "to pursue my goal of running a company." Broadcasting his ambition was "very much my decision," McGee says. Within two weeks, he was talking for the first time with the board of Hartford Financial Services Group (HIG), which named him CEO and chairman on Sept. 29.

  Whether or not his candor clinched the job, McGee says leaving without a position lined up gave him time to reflect on what kind of company he wanted to run. It also sent a clear message to the outside world about his aspirations. And McGee isn't alone. In recent weeks the No. 2 executives at Avon (AVP) and American Express (AXP) quit with the explanation that they were looking for a CEO post. On Nov. 3, about six weeks after announcing her exit from Avon, Elizabeth Smith was named CEO of OSI Restaurant Partners, owner of such casual dining chains as Outback Steakhouse and Carrabba's Italian Grill. As boards scrutinize succession plans in response to shareholder pressure, executives who don't get the nod also may wish to move on. A tumultuous business environment also has senior managers wary of letting vague pronouncements cloud their reputations.

  As the first signs of recovery begin to take hold, deputy chiefs may be more willing to make the jump without a net. In the third quarter, CEO turnover was down 23% from a year ago as skittish boards stuck with the leaders they had, according to Liberum Research. As the economy picks up, says Russell Reynolds Associates recruiter Anne Lim O'Brien, "opportunities will abound" for aspiring leaders.

  The decision to quit a senior position to look for a better one is unconventional, to say the least. For years executives and headhunters have hewed closely to the rule that the most attractive CEO candidates are the ones who must be poached. Says Korn/Ferry (KFY) senior partner Dennis Carey: "I can't think of a single search I've done where a board has not instructed me to look at [sitting CEOs] first."

A FADING STIGMA

  Those who jumped without a job haven't always landed in top positions quickly. Ellen Marram quit as chief of Tropicana when the business became part of PepsiCo (PEP) a decade ago, saying she wanted to be a CEO. Although Marram says she had "a lot of opportunities presented" to her, it was a year before she became head of a tiny Internet-based commodities exchange, efdex. Robert Willumstad left Citigroup (C) in 2005 with ambitions to be a CEO. He finally took that post at a major financial institution three years later, briefly becoming CEO of American International Group (AIG) three months before its near-collapse.

  Many recruiters say the old stigma is fading for top performers. The financial crisis has made it more acceptable to be between jobs or to leave a bad one. "The traditional rule was it's safer to stay where you are, but that's been fundamentally inverted," says one headhunter. "The people who've been hurt the worst are those who've stayed too long."

  The question is how quickly these ambitious managers can land on top. Smith's search didn't take long; neither did McGee's. When debating whether to leave, he reached out to colleagues, CEOs, and headhunters. Their advice, he says: "If you're viewed as good, it actually might be a positive thing. It shows you have the independence and self-confidence to go for what you want."

http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/09_46/b4155072824076.htm

 

2011年英语阅读的第三篇为《麦肯锡季刊》的《市场与销售》部分2010年11月8日的一篇名为Beyond Paid Media: Market’s New Vocabulary 《付费媒体之外》,由David Edelman与Brian Salsberg所写,本题为该文前四段的修改版。该文为新近发表著作,还在受限期内,应通过机构订阅的途径取阅,现录入常见于网络的前两段,以供参考,余下部分改日提供。

McKinsey Quarterly

Beyond paid media: Marketing's new vocabulary

By David Edelman and Brian Salsberg

Changes to the way consumers perceive and absorb marketing messages will force marketers to change not only their thinking but also the way they allocate spending and organize operations.

The rough guide to marketing success used to be that you got what you paid for. No longer. While traditional “paid” media—such as television and radio commercials, print advertisements, and roadside billboards—still play a major role, companies today can exploit many alternative forms of media. Consumers enamored of a product may, for example, create “earned” media by willingly promoting it to friends, and a company may leverage “owned” media by sending e-mail alerts about products and sales to customers registered with its Web site. In fact, the way consumers now approach the process of making purchase decisions means that marketing’s impact stems from a broad range of factors beyond conventional paid media.

These expanding media forms reflect dramatic changes in the way consumers perceive and absorb marketing messages.1 As a result, some strategic-marketing frameworks—such as the popular “paid, owned, earned” one—are in serious need of updating. Many marketers use this framework to distinguish different ways of interacting with consumers, forms of financing, and measures of performance for each contact.

Yet the paid, owned, earned framework increasingly looks too limited. How, for example, should a marketing strategist for a company react to requests from other companies to purchase advertising space on its product sites? How should a company deal with online activists when they take hold of a product or campaign to push a negative emotional response against it?

Two media types must therefore be added to the framework: “sold” and “hijacked.” These new forms of media, which demand sustained investment and attention, challenge the traditional strategies, structure, and operations of most marketing organizations. Yet marketers should view their expanding range of media options not only as a challenge but also as an opportunity worth grasping, to encourage readers to share content or even create their own.

Five forms of media

Too many companies view marketing plans as little more than an exercise in where and when to buy media placement. Yet as the number of digital interactions increases, marketers must recognize the power that lies beyond traditional paid media.

1. Paid media include traditional advertising and similar vehicles: a company pays for space or for a third party to promote its products. This market is far from dying; options for marketers are expanding exponentially with the emergence of more targeted cable TV, online-display placement, and other channels, not to mention online video and search marketing, which are attracting greater interest.

2. The second category, owned media, consists of properties or channels owned by the company that uses them for marketing purposes (such as catalogs, Web sites, retail stores, and alert programs that e-mail notifications of special offers).

3. Earned media are generated when the quality or uniqueness of a company’s products and content compel consumers to promote the company at no cost to itself through external or their own “media.”

Starbucks, for example, announced in July that its Facebook fan base exceeded ten million people, the highest of any US corporation. The company directly links its recent strong performance to its social-networking efforts and “crowd sourced” innovations such as “My Starbucks Idea,” a Web site where anyone can suggest ways to make the company better.

Similarly, Honda Japan undertook a promotion on the social-networking site Mixi, where more than 630,000 people registered for information about the launch of its new CR-Z vehicle. The company automatically added “CR-Z” to these users’ Mixi login names (for example, “Taro CR-Z”) and gave them a chance to win a car. Nonregistered users wondered why people suddenly had login names incorporating CR-Z. Thanks to the buzz, prelaunch orders reached 4,500 units, and actual sales topped 10,000 units in the first month.

4. Sold media: Paid and owned media are controlled by marketers touting their own products. For earned media, such marketers act as the initial catalyst for users’ responses. But in some cases, one marketer’s owned media become another marketer’s paid media—for instance, when an e-commerce retailer sells ad space on its Web site. We define such sold media as owned media whose traffic is so strong that other organizations place their content or e-commerce engines within that environment.

This trend, which we believe is still in its infancy, effectively began with retailers and travel providers such as airlines and hotels and will no doubt go further. Johnson & Johnson, for example, has created BabyCenter, a stand-alone media property that promotes complementary and even competitive products.

Besides generating income, the presence of other marketers makes the site seem objective, gives companies opportunities to learn valuable information about the appeal of other companies’ marketing, and may help expand user traffic for all companies concerned.

5. Hijacked media:
The same dramatic technological changes that have provided marketers with more (and more diverse) communications choices have also increased the risk that passionate consumers will voice their opinions in quicker, more visible, and much more damaging ways. Such hijacked media are the opposite of earned media: an asset or campaign becomes hostage to consumers, other stakeholders, or activists who make negative allegations about a brand or product. Members of social networks, for instance, are learning that they can hijack media to apply pressure on the businesses that originally created them.

High-profile examples involve companies ranging from Nestlé (whose Facebook page was hijacked) to Domino’s Pizza (a prank online video of two employees contaminating sandwiches appeared on YouTube).
In each case, passionate consumers tried to persuade others to boycott products, putting the reputation of the target company at risk. When that happens, the company’s response may not be sufficiently quick or thoughtful, and the learning curve has been steep. Toyota Motor, for example, mitigated some of the damage from its recall crisis earlier this year with a relatively quick and well-orchestrated social-media response campaign, which included efforts to engage with consumers directly on sites such as Twitter and the social-news site Digg.



Continue reading on Examiner.com: Beyond paid media: marketing's new vocabulary - Dallas Business commentary | Examiner.com http://www.examiner.com/business-commentary-in-dallas/beyond-paid-media-marketing-s-new-vocabulary?render=print#ixzz1Dj9v61Ha

2011年考研英语阅读第四篇为News Week《新闻周刊》2010年7月9日由Jennie Yabroff所写的Not on Board with Baby: Parenthood—the condition, not the TV show –sucks. Or so everyone keeps saying.。本题为该文的改写版,由原来的5段改写成四段,现将原文录入,以供参考。

It’s no surprise that Jennifer Senior’s insightful, provocative New York magazine cover story, “I Love My Children, I Hate My Life,” is inciting much chatter—nothing gets people talking like the suggestion that child rearing is anything less than a completely fulfilling, life-enriching experience. (Remember the heat that novelist Ayelet Waldman took for merely implying that she loved her husband more than her children?) Rather than conclude that children make parents either happy or miserable, Senior suggests we need to redefine happiness: instead of thinking of it as something that can be measured by moment-to-moment elation, we should consider being happy as a past-tense condition. Even though the day-to-day experience of raising kids can be soul-crushingly hard, Senior writes that “the very things that in the moment dampen our moods can later be sources of intense gratification, nostalgia, delight.” Apparently that selective, evolutionarily advantageous amnesia that makes women forget the pain of childbirth lasts well beyond the first years of your children’s lives. According to one long-term study in California, no participants regretted having children, but 10 people in the study reported regretting not having a family.

The New York cover showing an attractive blonde mother holding a cute, chubby, blue-eyed baby is hardly the only Madonna-and-child combo on newsstands this week. There’s also Real Housewife Bethenny Frankel above the People magazine headline “My Baby Saved Me,” a possibly pregnant (but probably just bloated) Jessica Simpson (OK! magazine’s “Baby for Jess”), and “Baby No. 2 on the Way!” (despite any evidence of conception whatsoever) for reality-TV personality Kourtney Kardashian on the cover of inTouch. There are also stories about newly adoptive—and newly single—mom Sandra Bullock, as well as the usual “Jennifer Aniston is pregnant” news (at least the third such rumor about Aniston this year, but this is a slow year). Practically every week features at least one celebrity mom, or mom-to-be, smiling beatifically on the newsstands.

In a society that so relentlessly celebrates procreation (especially when done by attractive celebrities), is it any wonder that admitting you regret having children is tantamount to admitting you support kitten-killing? It doesn’t seem quite fair, then, to compare the regrets of parents to the regrets of the childless. Unhappy parents rarely are provoked to wonder if they shouldn’t have had kids, but unhappy childless folks—those freakish nonbreeders—are bombarded with the message that children are the single most important thing in the world: obviously their misery must be a direct result of the gaping, baby-size holes in their lives.

Of course, the image of parenthood that celebrity magazines like Us Weekly, People, inTouch, and OK! present is hugely unrealistic, especially when the parents are single mothers like Bullock. According to several studies concluding that parents are less happy than childless couples, single parents are the least happy of all. No shock there, considering how much work it is to raise a kid without a partner to lean on; yet to hear Sandra, Britney, and Padma tell it, raising a kid on their “own” (read: with round-the-clock help) is a piece of cake.

It’s hard to imagine that many people are dumb enough to want children just because Reese and Angelina make it look so glamorous: most adults understand that a baby is not a haircut. But it’s interesting to wonder if the images we see every week of blissful, stress-free, happiness-enhancing parenthood aren’t in some small, subconscious way contributing to our own dissatisfactions with the actual experience, in the same way that a small part of us hoped getting “the Rachel” might make us look just a little bit like Jennifer Aniston.

http://www.newsweek.com/2010/07/09/not-on-board-with-baby.html

 

第五篇出自《经济学家》(Economist)文化版上《美国大学教育栏目》(University Education in America)2010年2月25号的一篇名为《教授职业化》(Professionalising the Professor: The difficulties of an American doctoral student)的书评。该书评是针对《新思想的集市:美国大学改革与阻力》(The Marketplace of Ideas: Reform and Resistance in American University )这一著作,就美国大学现状,从一个博士生的角度进行的阐发。为便于对照阅读,现将该文录入如下:

    

Professionalising the professorThe difficulties of an American doctoral student

 

The Marketplace of Ideas: Reform and Resistance in the American University. By Louis Menand. Norton; 174 pages; $24.95 and £17.99. Buy from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk

  THIS subtle and intelligent little book should be read by every student thinking of applying to take a doctorate. They may then decide to go elsewhere. For something curious has been happening in American universities, and Louis Menand, a professor of English at Harvard University, captures it deftly.

  His concern is mainly with the humanities: literature, languages, philosophy and so on. These are disciplines that are going out of style: 22% of American college graduates now major in business compared with only 2% in history and 4% in English. However, many leading American universities want their undergraduates to have a grounding in the basic canon of ideas that every educated person should possess. But most find it difficult to agree on what a “general education” should look like. At Harvard, Mr Menand notes, “The great books are read because they have been read”—they form a sort of social glue.

  One reason why it is hard to design and teach such courses is that they cut across the insistence by top American universities that liberal-arts education and professional education should be kept separate, taught in different schools. Many students experience both varieties. Although more than half of Harvard undergraduates end up in law, medicine or business, future doctors and lawyers must study a non-specialist liberal-arts degree before embarking on a professional qualification.

  Besides professionalising the professions by this separation, top American universities have professionalised the professor. The growth in public money for academic research has speeded the process: federal research grants rose fourfold between 1960 and 1990, but faculty teaching hours fell by half as research took its toll. Professionalism has turned the acquisition of a doctorate into a prerequisite for a successful academic career: as late as 1969 a third of American professors did not possess one. But the key idea behind professionalisation, argues Mr Menand, is that “the knowledge and skills needed for a particular specialisation are transmissible but not transferable.” So disciplines acquire a monopoly not just over the production of knowledge, but also over the production of the producers of knowledge.

  No disciplines have seized on professionalism with as much enthusiasm as the humanities. You can, Mr Menand points out, become a lawyer in three years and a medical doctor in four. But the median time—median!—to a doctoral degree in the humanities is nine years. (Advertising note to American students: you can get a perfectly good PhD at a top British university in under four years.) Not surprisingly, up to half of all doctoral students in English drop out before getting their degrees.

Equally unsurprisingly, only about half end up with the jobs they entered graduate school to get: tenured professorships. There are simply too few posts. This is partly because universities continue to churn out ever more PhDs. But fewer students want to study humanities subjects: English departments awarded more bachelor’s degrees in 1970-71 than they did 20 years later. Fewer students require fewer teachers. So, at the end of a decade of thesis-writing, many humanities students leave the profession to do something for which they have not been trained.

  The key to reforming higher education, concludes Mr Menand, is to alter the way in which “the producers of knowledge are produced”. Otherwise, academics will continue to think dangerously alike, increasingly detached from the societies which they study, investigate and criticise. “Academic inquiry, at least in some fields, may need to become less exclusionary and more holistic.” Yet quite how that happens, Mr Menand does not say. In reality, baby and bathwater may go out together. Public exasperation with academic introversion may lead to a loss of some independence, the most precious right of academics in a free society.

http://www.economist.com/node/15577485

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