R.R. Reno of First Things has a review of it. If you know anything at all about which trough non-science academics have been feeding from for the past few generations, you'll not expect anything new. It isn't easy to come up with new standards when you haven't been taught any yourself. Or to put it more fairly perhaps: When one's academic life is centered around the negation rather than the appreciation of time-tested values, it is asking a lot to be expected to come up with time-tested standards of education. If what one has been taught hasn't worked, alas!--one must reinvent the wheel. Or, perhaps invent new language to describe the same old paradigms.
A few choice quotes from Reno's report:
“The aim of a liberal education is to unsettle presumptions, to defamiliarize the familiar, to reveal what is going on beneath and behind appearances, to disorient young people.”*I can buy into academics disorienting young people up to a point. But shouldn't you be starting to try to actually orient them by, say, the second semester of the first year? Indeed, don't young people already come in disoriented, naturally? I thought that was what high school was for.
"Let’s take a look at the core category that might involve the study of literature: “Aesthetic and Interpretive Understanding.” One might think that a class on Shakespeare, for example, would have as its goal an encounter with the content of his plays. But it appears not to be so. “Students,” we learn, “should know how to ‘read’ cultural and aesthetic expressions.” The scare quotes are telling. A Harvard student will not so much be taught to read Shakespeare as learn how to “read” him, which means understanding the “dynamics of culture” encoded into his poetry and plays. This should not surprise. The goal is “to help students understand themselves and others as products of and participants in traditions of culture and belief,” so that they can “understand how meanings are produced and received.” Cultural studies, in other words, supplants the humanities. It’s not what Shakespeare says that matters; it’s his role as factory that produces meaning."
And finally this:"Why has the study of culture shifted so dramatically? Here the report provides a valuable clarity. It gives us an important insight into Harvard’s ideal of the well-educated world leader. “Familiarity with the dynamics of culture,” we are told, “is essential to the students’ successful navigation of today’s world.” Nicely put. The basic existential thrust of postmodern cultural study is to relax the power of any particular culture over the minds of students. The goal is obvious. A Harvard man or woman is not to be a member of a culture. He or she navigates cultures. With a critical grasp of the factory of meaning, he or she sets about to oversee production."The goal of education is to discourage membership in a culture. Is that right? Reno quotes John Henry Newman (Remember this is a Catholic periodical.) to the effect that the conceit of moderns is to approach truth without homage. That is a great thought, and alas, is so totally absurd in the context of modern higher education. To invoke truth at all, and to then suggest that Truth ought to be something we honor, seek, even worship!--stops all conversation in the ivied halls. This is something with which academia appears no longer equipped to tangle. Read Reno's article for the whole spiel.
*In reading through the actual Harvard document, I found that the full quote reads at the end: "...to disorient young people and to help them to find ways to re-orient themselves." Strike one against Mr. Reno. His point stands, as "re-orient" could be considered code language for treating with deep suspicion and even hostility the prevailing culture.