Even Shakespeare doesn’t like McMansions

As the debate over the value of certain college majors continues, William Shakespeare responds and defends the liberal arts and also knocks McMansions:

See, when I wrote all those plays back in the day, I had no intention of helping the bright-eyed brats of the future find their way to high-paying jobs and McMansions in the ’burbs. No, I was after something else altogether. (If you don’t understand this, please do not feel alone; this great stage of fools is plenty crowded.) To be sure, one should not attempt to mine A Midsummer Night’s Dream for literal fortune, unless, of course, you’re in the tights-and-tunics trade. But that’s another matter…

Students can do worse than to take literature courses, like ones devoted to my work, or to that of Toni Morrison, or even to depressing saps like Melville. To study literature is to practice critical thinking; to write about texts is to hone writing skills. The very things that the masters of industry demand in their employees, no?

Shakespeare seems to have heard the selling points for a liberal arts education.

The phrase that interests me: “the bright-eyed brats of the future find their way to high-paying jobs and McMansions in the ’burbs.” This seems to be a broad indictment of how students (and others?) view college: it is about making money and living comfortably as one pursues the American dream. In contrast, the liberal arts promotes thinking and wrestling with the big questions that humans have sought to answer throughout history. But do McMansions and critical thinking have to be mutually exclusive? McMansion seems to refer here more to the homeowners themselves who are only interested in making money, getting ahead, and enjoying life. Is the opposite implication that critical thinkers would never purchase or build a McMansion because they would see its faults? Do critical thinkers (and liberal arts majors) only live in homes with character and history in the city?

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