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Issue

"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."

Sample Essay

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.


观点陈述型作文/[题目]

"学院和大学应该开设更多通俗音乐、电影、广告和电视方面的课程,因为当代文化要比昔日的艺术和文学对于学生具有远为密切的联系。"


[范文正文]

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。

有些时候,人们难以确定当代文化与过去的艺术和文学的差异究竟何在。莎士比亚的经典之作不断地被改编成当代电影,常常能成为学生和普通大众的大热门。每年,全世界数百万人在博物馆观赏古典艺术作品。宗教文本的阅读对于世界相当大的一部分人口而言从来就不失为一种风尚。数个世纪古老的文化与宗教之间的冲突,如西方国家与伊斯兰极端主义者之间的冲突,以及印度国内印度教徒与穆斯林教徒之间的冲突,例证着那些可被称为昔日艺术和文学的宗教事物在很大程度上实乃当代文化的一部分。

虽然过去无疑不能被淡忘,但学生在大学中所学内容,很大一部分是基于当代文化的。大多数宗教学习,至少一个人自身的宗教的学习,或始于家庭,或始于学生受教育的早期。在大学这一层次上,对政治、商科以及计算机科学的学习,与当代文化中的最新进步深深相涉,以便使人与时俱进,与时代紧密相关。其它的学科,如数学、农业、艺术与文学,很大程度上是从过去的源泉获取这些课程中所传授的核心知识。这些来自过去的课程的应用完全是恰当的,有助于将当代文化置于某种历史架构之中,去帮助学生领略和理解他们所生活于其中的那个变化迅速的世界。

有一点似乎是不证自明的,即一个受过恰当教育的大学生必须在学习当代文化与不偏废昔日艺术和文学之间寻找到某种平衡。对两者的学习并非互为排斥。一种综合全面的教育,其益处不仅在于让人知道当今世界所处的状态,而且亦在于首先要让人弄清世界是何以抵达目前这一发展阶段的。


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