Monday, March 2, 2009

The Elite Humanities

Dean Dad noticed this NY Times piece a few days ago, and has already provided the appropriate excoriation. But it is just so outrageous, I feel the need to repeat his points.

It's an article claiming that because the economy is bad, nobody studies the humanities anymore. The evidence? Well...there isn't any. Literally. The author, a Ms. Patricia Cohen cites statistics that say that overall hiring academic is down. Okay... And also statistics that humanities degrees have been stable over the past two decades. There was a big decline in the 1970s, but it's been fine ever since. If anything, I found the actual statistics in this story comforting for my career prospects.

Maybe I'm just being picky; maybe it's only we humanists who care about such things as "evidence" to support your "argument."

But the kicker is this paragraph:

The humanities continue to thrive in elite liberal arts schools. But the divide between these private schools and others is widening. Some large state universities routinely turn away students who want to sign up for courses in the humanities, Francis C. Oakley, president emeritus and a professor of the history of ideas at Williams College, reported. At the University of Washington, for example, in recent years, as many as one-quarter of the students found they were unable to get into a humanities course.

As money tightens, the humanities may increasingly return to being what they were at the beginning of the last century, when only a minuscule portion of the population attended college: namely, the province of the wealthy.

You get that? The humanities thrive in elite liberal arts schools. Unlike at big state schools, where...humanities courses are so widely popular they oversubscribe. Therefore, the humanities are now only for the elite.


I'm going to guess Ms. Cohen did not major in the humanities; I sure hope not.

1 comment:

Kyle said...

Yes, I remember seeing this article and its graph, but did not have the time to read it. Looks like I didn't miss much. Well, I now have my acceptance letter in hand to a private grad school (for musicology, naturally), and that article does not faze me. I'm not sure I would classify it as "elite" as in Ivy, but maybe all private schools are elite to Ms. Cohen.

But really, I don't care if its public or private. The schools I applied to are basically split even. And I just graduated from a huge state school. What I care about is if the school has a good program, and if my interests are somewhat similar to the faculty.