June 18, 2016

What's happening to the humaniities?

Dan Falcone, Truthout

Michael Bérubé, a professor of literature at Pennsylvania State University, and director of the Institute for the Arts and Humanities, says the idea that the number of students majoring in the humanities has plummeted is untrue, although it is a universal presupposition.

Bérubé contends that while it is true that English enrollments are down in some places since 2008, they are not as bad as they were in the really lean years. Nevertheless, students and families keep hearing the myth that English is a dying subject. This humanities-ending attitude was just recently reflected in April 2016, when Pennsylvania State Rep. Brad Roae (R) proposed ending higher education grants for students studying "poetry or some other pre-Walmart major."

Bérubé says that the idea that humanities majors won't be able to find jobs is turning out to be a "zombie belief every bit as hard to kill" as the idea that enrollment in the humanities is plummeting, and Bérubé is positive that the two beliefs are symbiotic.

According to Inside Higher Ed's Allie Grasgreen, "liberal arts majors may start off slower than others when it comes to the postgraduate career path, but they close much of the salary and unemployment gap over time, a new report shows."

Grasgreen goes on to report that "by their mid-50s, liberal arts majors with an advanced or undergraduate degree are on average making more money than those who studied in professional and pre-professional fields, and are employed at similar rates." But that's just one component of Grasgreen observations. The concerns about the value of a liberal arts degree are essentially unfounded and should be put to rest, she writes. Too often, we put the curriculum above the students for our own preservation in an effort to satisfy management.

Debra Humphreys, vice president for policy and public engagement at the Association of American Colleges and Universities, states that "[there is] a myth out there -- that somehow if you major in humanities, you're doomed to be unemployed for the rest of your life. [The research] suggests otherwise." Grasgreen cited Humphreys' indication that "we do need more engineers, but we also need more social workers" and that education need not be an "an either-or proposition."



Strelnikov said...

When Republicans say these things, they are fighting the culture war; they want an end to Humanities because that's where they think the Left-wing professors live.

If the Republican Party were a person, it would be declared mentally incompetent.

Anonymous said...

Slaves, like Frederick Douglass, by learning to read, diminished their value and loyalty to their masters. Wage slaves with liberal arts degrees are more likely to escape into democratic zones of freedom of thought. On the other hand, the liberal arts are dominated not by Emerson or Charles Sumner (of the statue in Harvard Square) but by professors like Kissinger, Friedman and Summers for mastering the official catechism that Oswald killed JFK, Chile and Vietnam were noble causes, Wall Street is your friend. Far better to study ancient Greek and Latin, as did the framers, and cultivate a 1780's passion for democracy that might lead to an anti-careerist mission statement that begins with we pledge our lives and our fortunes... to an ontological breakthrough for the world. This is not going to come without some mastery of the work of Socrates and Kant.

Capt. America said...

The education racket manufactures debt and prepares millions for jobs that will never exist. The only certainty about the future is that it won't be the same as surveys of the past or present indicate.