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10/12/10

Does High Culture Humanize Us?

When we think of high culture, names come to mind. Mozart, Beethoven, Mahler, Rembrandt, Da Vinci, Michaelangelo, Shakespeare, Goethe, Cervantes. To appreciate and gain understanding of their works, we develop sensibilities and sensitivities. To do so, humanizes us. So goes the thinking. Does it humanize everybody? Not according to this account:

"To walk through Dresden’s museums, and past the young buskers fiddling Mozart on street corners, is to wonder whether this age-old question may have things backward. It presumes that we’re passive receivers acted on by the arts, which vouchsafe our salvation, moral and otherwise, so long as we remain in their presence. Arts promoters nowadays like to trumpet how culture helps business and tourism; how teaching painting and music in schools boosts test scores. They try to assign practical ends, dollar values and other hard numbers, never mind how dubious, to quantify what’s ultimately unquantifiable.

The lesson of Dresden, which this great city unfortunately seems doomed to repeat, is that culture is, to the contrary, impractical and fragile, helpless even." More

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