In my field of academic training, the word myth has a very particular meaning: a story that functions to hold together a community. It is not (as ordinary language sometimes has it) a false story.
So, what I am about to quote is about the clash of myth and history (perhaps a tiny bit similar to the ways that clash occurred in the 19th century, for example, when historians and others debated the status of biblical texts). The words are from the preface to The Idea and Practice of General Education: An Account of the University of Chicago by "present and former members of the faculty." The particular edition I own has a preface by Donald N. Levine (one of my dissertation advisers and an emeritus faculty member of the University of Chicago who has also written on liberal education and served as Dean of the College at the University of Chicago). Here's what he writes:
"Often hailed as the most momentous curricular experiment in the history of American higher education, the 'Hutchins College' has even more frequently been misrepresented. The phrase evokes a widely cherished founding myth: Robert Maynard Jutchins came to the University of Chicago as a young man in 1930; he brought along Mortimer Adler, who introduced him to the powers and pleasures of the Great Books; as a result, Hitchins established a liberal arts curriculum in the College organized around reading of Great Books. The story is colorful, inspirational perhaps, but quite untrue."
As he continues: "The facts of the matter are:
(1) Well before Hutchins was even considered as a candidate for the presidency of the University of Chicago, its faculty has developed all of the ideas for what becamse knowns as the New Plan, instituted under President Hutchins in 1931.
(2) The College faculty subsequently considered but firmly rejected his aspiration for a curriculum organized around the Great Books, after which the plan for a Great Books curriculum got transported to St. John's College in Annapolis, Maryland.
(3) The curriculum consistently developed in the College in the Hutchins years followed an alternative principle, that of leading students to develop their powers by focused work in the major disciplines by means of which human knowledge had been constructed -- not a Great Books program, then, but one that included some Great Books along with other texts whose selection was geared to progressive mastery of some basic ideas and methods of the various arts and sciences." (p. v).
True or false?