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."