"Colleges and universities should offer more courses on popular music, film, advertising and television because contemporary culture has much greater relevance for students than do arts and literature of the past."
To the extent that contemporary culture is, by definition, current, it does have a much more immediate impact on students and people in general than do the arts and literature of the past. Contemporaneous events directly affect everyone alive at the time because they are occurring at precisely the same time as the individual's existence. But to paraphrase a famous philosopher: "Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it." To a great extent, past arts and literature shape who we are as people at least as much as, if not more than, contemporary culture does.
Everyone alive today is affected in one way or another by the events of the past. Past events have directly led to the way that the world is shaped today. The arts and literature are one of the most well-preserved and documented resources that can give us a direct link into what actually happened in the past. Consider the religious writings of the Bible, the Koran and those of Confucius, as well as those related to Buddhism, Hinduism and all other religions. These writings directly relate to, and in some cases to a great extent control, the behavior of human beings today even though most were written hundreds if not thousands of years ago. Artworks relating to these religions also have a profound effect. Consider Michelangelo's work in the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican, or the vast myriad of historic Buddhist statues throughout Asia, or the ancient Muslim mosques throughout the Middle East and Central Asia. It would be difficult to argue that contemporary culture has more relevance to today's students when compared with the relevance of these examples of past arts and literature.
At times it is difficult to determine what exactly is the difference between contemporary culture and the arts and literature of the past. Shakespeare's classic writings are continuously being adapted into current movies that are often big hits with students and the general population as a whole. Millions of people every year view classic works of art in museums all over the world. Readings of religious texts have never gone out of style with a large part of the world's population. Clashes between centuries-old cultures and religions, such as that of Western countries and Islamic extremists and that of Hindus and Muslims in India, demonstrate that the religious artifacts that could be called arts and literature of the past are very much a part of contemporary culture.
While the past can certainly not be ignored, a large part of what students must learn at university is based on contemporary culture. Most religious learning, at least of one's own religion, occurs either at home or early on in a student's education. At the university level, studies of politics, business and the computer sciences must deal in great detail with the latest advances in contemporary culture in order to remain up to date and relevant. Other subjects, such as mathematics, agriculture, and the arts and literature themselves look largely to the past for the core knowledge that is taught in these courses. The application of these lessons from the past are entirely appropriate to help put contemporary culture into some type of historical context that can help students to understand and comprehend the rapidly changing world that they are living in.
It would seem self-evident that a properly educated university student must find a balance between studying contemporary culture without neglecting the study of arts and literature of the past. The study of one is not mutually exclusive of the study of the other. The benefits of a well-rounded education come from not only knowing the state of the world as it exists today but also in knowing how the world arrived at this stage of development in the first place.
只要当代文化——依照其定义——具有当代性，它无疑比昔日的艺术和文学对学生乃至普通大众具有一种远为直接的影响。同时代的事件会直接影响到生活在那一时代的每一个人，因为它们的发生与这个人的生存正值同时。但这里我们可以复述一位著名哲学家的话，"那些无法从历史中汲取教训者注定会重蹈覆辙".在相当大的程度上，昔日的艺术和文学造就了我们现如今的情状，其作用即使并不甚于当代文化，至少与当代文化相同。 生活于当今时代的每个人以一种或另一种方式深受过去事件的影响。昔日的事件直接导致了世界目前的运转方式。艺术和文学是保存和记载得最为完善的一种资源，它们能使我们与过去实际发生过的事情直接联系起来。 不妨考虑一下《圣经》，《可兰经》一类的宗教著作，孔子的著述，以及那些与佛教、印度教和所有其他宗教相关的著作。这些直接地与当今时代人们的行为相关，并在某些情形中在相当大的程度上控制着当今时代人们的行为，虽然它们大多数创作于数百年、甚至数千年之前。与这些宗教相关的艺术品同样也产生了深远的影响。我们不妨考虑一下梵蒂冈西斯廷教堂内米开朗琪罗的作品，或遍布亚洲的无数具有历史性意义的佛教像，或者散布在整个中东和中亚地区的古代穆斯林清真寺。与这些过去的艺术和文学实例的相关性相比，当代文化被说成与当今学生更密切相关，这一论点是难以成立的。