this change is the latest response to student uneasiness over an idealized Western “canon” — a product of an overwhelmingly white, straight, European and male cadre of artists.(Straight? Really?)
I get this; there is something narrow-minded about a course solely on western art whose title doesn't even bother to mention that it is solely about western art.
But what, you ask, will replace this introductory course? In a word: nothing. Unable to agree on what a non western-centric introductory course would be like, they are declining to offer one.
Instead of this singular survey class, the Art History Department will soon offer a range of others, such as “Art and Politics,” “Global Craft,” “The Silk Road” and “Sacred Places.”Perhaps they learned something from historians, who have spent decades trying to create World History courses to replace Western Civ, only to find themselves offering a grab bag of random facts at something like a high school level. What, exactly, can you say about world history in a semester?
The underlying message is, I think: all art is cool. All people are important. It doesn't matter which art or which people you study as long as you are learning about something.
Which is a defensible position. But if no knowledge is more important than any other knowledge, why study art or history at all? If there is nothing in particular that an educated person is supposed to know, why go to college? If there are no great books that might change you in important ways, why read any books other than the ones that most amuse you? If no art is greater than other art, why not skip the museum and watch Buffy reruns?
I can imagine a university that moved gracefully from a too-western, too male-canon to a more inclusive canon while still holding on to old-fashioned notions of excellence. But I don't see that happening. What I see is a surrender to chaos.