41 CHRONICLESnHumanities in America, the NationalnEndowment for the Humanities’nlatest report to the nation, is like one ofnthose good news/bad news jokes thatnused to be so popular. The good news,naccording to NEH Director LynnenCheney, is the mounting evidence forn”the opportunities for learning andnreflection that have burgeoned in ournsociety in the past decade or so—andnthe enthusiastic response to them.”nCompared with earlier decades, Americansnnow spend more time on nonathleticncultural activities at museums,nconcerts, bookmobiles, and knitting exhibitions;n25 million people a yearnparticipate in events sponsored by thenNEH; public television is purveyingnhistory and literature to the masses; andnworks by Toni Morrison and AllannBloom are selling in the same storesnthat carry Harlequin romances.nThe bad news is that all this juicenand all this joy is going on outside ofnthe sanctified halls of our universities.nA student can still graduate from 80npercent of our institutions of highernlearning without taking a Western Civncourse, and the Stanford war on civilizationnmay well be the harbinger ofnthings to come.nMrs. Cheney’s report to the President,nthe Congress, and the Americannpeople is a welcome contribution tonthe national debate on higher education.nIf the intention was to score offnthe universities by praising local museumsnand private sector efforts in thenhumanities, her report can be acclaimednas a rhetorical success. As anserious piece of analysis, it is not withoutnflaws.nFirst of all, it is not at all clear thatnpeople are better off buying highbrownbooks than by reading popular fiction.nSci-fi, mysteries, and even Harlequinnromances deal with more serious questionsnthan Philip Roth ever dreamed ofntaking up, and things must be gettingnbad if Toni Morrison and Allan BloomnCULTURAL REVOLUTIONSnare signs of hope. As for taking part innendowment-funded activities, Godnhelp a people that confuses such stuffnwith the humanities. Sure, manynworthwhile projects are supported bynthe endowment, notably the publishingnof historical papers, but the mixturenof bureaucracy and the life of the mindnis an evil brew better suited to fascismnor communism than to democracy innAmerica.nThe humanities are badly off in thenuniversities, and it is hard to find languagensufficiently strong to describenwhat is taking place at Stanford. Still,nmore courses in the history of WesternnCiv may not be the answer. As recentlynas the 1960’s, my classmates and Inmanaged to get through a liberal artsnprogram without ever hearing of suchncourses. We were too busy studyingnhistory, classics, and modern languagesn— which is what they really ought to benrequiring of students, and I mean allnstudents, at Stanford. (The best Greeknstudent I knew was a chemistry major.)nIs there really any reason for hope?nPublic television has improved, it isntrue, but as a nation we waste morentime than ever watching television, andneven at the most popular level it isnimpossible not to smell the odor ofndecay. Compare the humor of W.C.nFields and Buster Keaton with thenhumor of, say, Saturday Night Live ornMel Brooks. What has happened to annation’s sense of humor when it isnconfined to the region of the bodynfrom the navel to the knees?nSpend an afternoon with your kidsnwatching old Warner Bros, cartoons ornthe Three Stooges comedies. Theynwere nearly the lowest sort of burlesquenof the last generation, and yet considernwhat they took for granted. A viewernunfamiliar with opera and serious literature,nfor example, will miss the pointnof joke after joke. What would mostncollege students do with Mo’s “Sextetnfrom Lucie” or Bugs Bunny’s “Wel­nnncome to my shop, let me trim yournmop” (to the tune of the Barber’snoverture), or Elmer Fudd’s “Kill thenwabbit, kill the wabbit” set to the “Ridenof the Valkyries,” or, taking an examplenfrom television, with Kingfish Stevens’nfavorite poet, Edna St. Louis Missouri?nIf what we take for granted is annindication of the state of our civilization,nthe descent from the ThreenStooges to the Three Amigos has beenna freefall. (TF)nThe Last Temptation of Christ—angenuine media event—was more interestingnas a political issue than as anmovie. The film portrays, it’s true, anChrist who is much more man thannGod. Unappealing as He is in thenbeginning of the film, when He isnbuilding wooden crosses that fellownJews will be crucified on, and runningnfrom God’s will to make Him somethingnother than a simple carpenter,nMartin Scorsese’s Christ is even lessnappealing when he starts to preach.nWillem Dafoe’s lisping Jesus is nondebater; “Love your brother” is not thengist of his message, it’s the entirenmessage, beginning to end, with maybena familiar parable thrown in fornspice. There are far better lines and angood deal more plain old boxofficeablendrama in the original Book.nCritics of this portrayal of Christnhave pointed out that other, holierncows—like Martin Luther King, Jr.,nfor example—would never get suchntreatment. They are probably right.nImagine a movie about King that emphasizednconferences with CommunistnJack O’Dell and various nights outnwith women other than Coretta. Butnsome protesters have unquestionablyngone too far. Accusations that thenJewish studio executives at MCA holdnsome special responsibility for ThenLast Temptation are worse than ugly.nBoycott the movie, warn your friendsn