Sunday, July 28, 2013

Who Ruined the #Humanities?

…revisited before returning to counting ACA hours, UI appeal strategies, organizing, #CEW2013, adjunct stories, HE and NTT in the news and other Future of HE concerns. 

Perspective and premise developed in this WSJ article may not sit well with humanities faculty, in particular those among us professing literature. Increasingly, NTT faculty teach more upper division and even graduate courses. The turn Lee Siegel anticipates so joyously would affect tenured faculty and lit teaching lecturers like +Joseph Fruscione and others. 

Yet, how many community college adjuncts teach literature, let alone their research specialty? Early cuts humanities offerings did not make much dent in graduate enrollments. Further, deeper ones might. Beyond the obvious and real concerns for professional futures, what then of the university as home to and primary patron of the humanities (and humanist scholars as gatekeepers and guardians)?
You've probably heard the baleful reports. The number of college students majoring in the humanities is plummeting, according to a big study released last month by the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. The news has provoked a flood of high-minded essays deploring the development as a symptom and portent of American decline.
Fewer and fewer undergraduates are majoring in the humanities, and critic Lee Siegel couldn’t be happier. As he tells WSJ’s Gary Rosen, great poetry and novels are meant to be experienced in private and alone, away from the competitive pressures of the classroom.
But there is another way to look at this supposed revelation (the number of humanities majors has actually been falling since the 1970s). The bright side is this: The destruction of the humanities by the humanities is, finally, coming to a halt .... 
The college teaching of literature is a relatively recent phenomenon. Literature did not even become part of the university curriculum until the end of the 19th century. Before that, what came to be called the humanities consisted of learning Greek and Latin, while the Bible was studied in church as the necessary other half of a full education. No one ever thought of teaching novels, stories, poems or plays in a formal course of study.... 
If there is any hand-wringing to do, it should be over the disappearance of what used to be a staple of every high-school education: the literature survey course. 

Read the complete article, "Who Ruined the Humanities?" at and all 316 comments if so inclined. The ones by faculty are easy to spot. Comments also show that the article is as much or more about teaching and learning - or studying v. enjoying literature and making a living v. making a life. If you have room and will for more, check out the following selection of humanities in the news...

Oh, the humanities 

Tribune-Review- 15 hours ago
Economic anxiety defines the Detroit bankruptcy - and not just in Michigan and the Midwest. Detroit is the urban nightmare, symbolic of America's downward cultural spiral since the 1960s, when optimism about what Americans could accomplish was the ..

The Humanities Hackathon leads the UW's entry into digitalhumanities

Isthmus - ‎2 hours ago
A free short course sponsored by the university's Center for the Humanities and Wisconsin Institute for Discovery (WID), the Hackathon aims to bridge the gap between disciplines like visual art, theater, literature, music and philosophy, and the sciences.

The Humanities in Crisis? Not at Most Schools

New York Times
Recently two reports, from Harvard University and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, have helped crystallize a sense that the humanities are in a fragile state. When we use the late 1960s as a benchmark, the downward trajectory is striking: the ...

Humanities in peril

The Providence Journal 
Two recent reports suggest that the study of the humanities is in danger. The first, from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, noted declining interest in the humanities and social sciences among career-oriented college students. The second, from ...

The Gender Lens

Inside Higher Ed

There's no shortage of explanations for the so-called crisis in thehumanities, and more have come to light since the publication of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences' recent “Heart of the Matter” report on the topic.

Nate Silver Crunches the Humanities

Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription) (blog)
In the debates over the humanities that have unfolded at The Chronicle and elsewhere, the statistician Nate Silver has emerged an authority on the numerical facts.
Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription)
No one who studies the humanities could possibly have a practical career in view, anymore than someone who has a practical career in view would ever bother studying the humanities, right? And in the corporate world, only the CEOs, not the HR people, ...

Another Whack at the Humanities

Inside Higher Ed
Judging by legislation introduced Monday by the chamber's Committee on Appropriations, which would cut the budget for the National Endowment for the Humanities in half next year, it seems the panel's members did not receive their copies of the recent ...

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