On her first day of English class at Hostos Community College during the fall 2017 semester, Maria Diaz glared at the reading handout, a Plato excerpt on the trial of Socrates. “I used to be like, ‘Prof, why are we reading this? It’s so boring and confusing,” she recalls. But only months later, Ms. Diaz would gush about the merits of the Western canon, quoting Socrates’ claim that “the unexamined life is not worth living.”
While much of academia continues its progressive and postmodern lurch, these courses at Hostos, first offered in 2016, represent a move in the opposite direction. One of the classes even was designed especially for students who score a “high fail” on their literacy tests. Profs. Andrea Fabrizio and Gregory Marks, along with their colleagues in the English Department, created the courses in collaboration with Columbia University. They borrowed heavily from the Ivy League school’s core curriculum for liberal-arts undergraduates.