If you or one of your children are heading off to get a degree from Yale, you’ve missed out on the last chance to enroll in their course called “Introduction to Art History: Renaissance to the Present” because this semester is the last time it will be offered. It’s not that the course wasn’t popular. It was always full. Unfortunately, the curriculum was simply too full of the work of straight, white, European men. Katherine Timpf at National Review has the details.
According to an article in the Yale Daily News, “Introduction to Art History: Renaissance to the Present” was once “touted to be one of Yale College’s quintessential classes.” Now, the college is canceling it over what it calls “student uneasiness over an idealized Western ‘canon’ — a product of an overwhelmingly white, straight European and male cadre of artists.”
Tim Berringer, the chair of the art-history department and the course’s instructor, explained the decision to discontinue the course this way:
“I want all Yale students (and all residents of New Haven who can enter our museums freely) to have access to and to feel confident analyzing and enjoying the core works of the western tradition,” he wrote in an email to the Daily News. “But I don’t mistake a history of European painting for the history of all art in all places.”
Timpf also notes that if you read the entire, original article at the school’s paper, there are no quotes or examples offered to indicate that there was “student uneasiness” over the presumable lack of non-European lesbian artists of color. Also, four hundred students applied for the 300 available seats.
This appears to be nothing more than the left’s latest efforts to “cancel” history because it doesn’t conform to idealized liberal views of the world. But the one glaring fact being ignored here is that the word “history” is right in the title of the course. And while I hate to break the news to you, history really wasn’t all that woke. “Diversity” as a cultural goal or norm is actually a very recent development in human culture. (And it still hasn’t spread across the world. Just go spend some time in Japan or the Koreas.)
The reality of the bygone eras covered for most of that course was that women were afforded far fewer opportunities, and that included being recognized in the arts. It’s equally true that the vast majority of people in power in Europe were white. (Don’t let the fragile people at Yale know, but if you study the early art and culture of China from the same period, nearly everyone is Chinese.) And while it’s either known or suspected that some of the prominent artists featured in such courses may have been gay, they generally didn’t talk about it in public. If they did, it could have ended very badly for them.
Criticize those cultures if you wish, which is clearly easy enough to do when looking at the question through a 21st-century lens. But no amount of censorship will change the reality of those times. Eliminating that course may make the liberal powers that be feel better about themselves, but all of the sculptures, paintings and other classic works will stubbornly remain a part of history whether you like it or not. Only now, the students at Yale won’t be versed in that world and the masterpieces it produced.