humanities

The Decline of the Humanities and Who’s to Blame

This year is the 30th Anniversary of the publication of Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind. That book made Bloom and anyone who liked it unambiguous enemies of the humanities. Bill Bennett, Dinesh D’Souza, Lynn Cheney, the founders of the National Association of Scholars and the Association of Literary Scholars and Critics, Roger […]

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Fewer Humanities Courses, More Ph.D.’s

A new report says that humanities departments in the United States produced 5,891 doctorates in 2015, the largest since the numbers were first tracked in 1987. Meanwhile, the chief market for those grad school grads, a tenure-track position at a decent school, has steadily contracted. Things just keep getting worse. The Humanities Indicators press release notes […]

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Don’t Kill the National Endowment for the Humanities

The National Endowment for the Humanities is again in the news as a possible casualty of the new administration’s effort to cut costs. Conservatives should fight for the agency. Conservatives worry that humanities scholars have turned away from enduring questions to embrace political fads. But under Bruce Cole’s administration, from 2001 to 2009, the NEH […]

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Humanities, Pretty Much Dead, Are Mostly a Hunt for Racism and Sexism

A number of prominent liberal intellectuals, such as Leon Wieseltier, acknowledge that the humanities are in trouble. There “really is a cultural crisis,” he said at a recent Aspen Ideas Festival. This is an improvement over the mass denial of a few years ago, when the standard retort to conservatives went something like this: “You […]

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Why History Courses Are Declining

A few years ago, when critics of academia warned that the humanities were sinking, academics shot back with data showing that enrollments were steady and the departments were doing just fine.  They also sprinkled smug remarks about Chicken-Little conservatives who were just upset that the hegemony of the traditional canon had crumbled. We don’t need […]

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More Bad Numbers for the Humanities

By Mark Bauerlein In recent years, several critics have chided those of us who say the humanities are fading by citing statistics on undergraduate enrollments that show no real declines at all since the 1980s. One reason for the rebuke is that many arguing the “crisis” do so on the basis of intellectual decline, specifically, […]

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Jobs and Debt

COLLEGE SHOULDN’T BE JOB TRAINING, BUT…

Like many commentators and candidates, Fareed Zakaria, the eloquent host of CNN’s GPS, has turned out a new book on higher education. In Defense of a Liberal Education laments that today’s students are pressured into thinking of college as a time to prepare for the global marketplace, discouraged from dreaming big, and told to acquire […]

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Jacques Barzun, 1907-2012

“Full of years.” I am not sure I know of anyone who better qualified for that Biblical epithet than Jacques Barzun, who died last week at the magnificent age of 104.  Born in France in 1907, Barzun had been a presence on the American intellectual and academic scene since the 1950s. From his perch at […]

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Pleasure Island

The kids! The boys! They’re all donkeys! – Jiminy Cricket Beloit College recently released its annual “Mindset List,” the findings of a yearly survey which attempts to take stock of the cultural touchstones that each generation of college freshman is, or is not, familiar with. Most of the observations are benign: “They can’t picture people […]

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Universities Are Vocational Schools

Why do students go to college? A new poll has a one-word answer: money. That’s one of the findings in a broad Gallup survey of college admissions officers done for Inside Higher Ed. The admissions officers seem to believe that those planning to attend college view it largely as a signaling device that directs the best […]

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The Perils of Student Choice

The release of SAT scores last week gives strong ammunition to proponents of a core curriculum. As reported in the Wall Street Journal , reading scores hit their lowest figure in four decades. Writing scores hit their lowest number since a writing component was added to the exam six years ago; in fact, writing scores […]

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The University of Chicago Chooses Decline

The University of Chicago hit two mile-markers in its decade-long transformation this week. The first, generally celebrated by students, alumni, and their parents, is a new high-water mark in the school’s US News & World Report ranking. The University now shares the fourth spot with Columbia, rising from 12 a few years ago and leapfrogging […]

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Here’s How the Scholar Disappears

Political scientists Gary King (Harvard University) and Maya Sen (University of Rochester) recently produced a working paper titled, “The Troubled Future of Colleges and Universities.” Everyone interested in higher education should read it. The paper is instructive for those who want to understand how little most academics understand the crisis universities face. The problems with […]

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Capitalism and Western Civilization: Liberal Education

Speaking of business and management majors, Douglas Campbell and James E. Fletcher argue in A Better Way to Educate Professionals that their students “should have a strong base in the traditional liberal arts and the physical sciences….to effectively work with people to understand and solve problems as well as to accomplish individual, organizational, and social goals.” […]

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More Depressing News from Duke

For insight into the corruption of the modern academy, look no further than Heather MacDonald’s extraordinary article on the recent controversy at Duke. Two Duke professors, Peter Arcidiacono and Ken Spenner, and a graduate student, Esteban Aucejo, produced a paper showing that African-American students at Duke disproportionately migrate from science and engineering majors to less […]

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Three Cheers for Useless Education

Several years ago Harper’s Magazine ran two articles on “The Uses of Liberal Education.” One article, subtitled “As a weapon in the hands of the restless poor,” was written by Earl Shorris, and describes how poor and underprivileged members of our society were eager to study the great books and benefited from them. He devised a […]

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Will English Departments Begin to Fade?

The executive council of the Modern Language Association (MLA), the leading organization for English and foreign-language professors, issued a statement on Wednesday decrying the rising debt levels of college students. Well, sure, who isn’t against student debt? But I think that the MLA statement is more than just pious boilerplate. It’s a statement of panic–that […]

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After Graduation, Get a Job Immediately, or Else

One of the frequent complaints one hears from humanities professors and figures in the “softer” social sciences is that students and a growing number of higher education officials, consultants, and commentators regard college more and more as a job-training program.  While driving across the country this week, I heard Rush Limbaugh declare that the only […]

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Another Blow to the Humanities

The Chronicle of Higher Education has published the results of

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What’s the Point of Academic Conferences?

At research universities in the United States, most departments in the humanities have a travel budget that supports professional activities for their faculty members.  Most of it goes to help professors attend academic conferences and deliver a paper to colleagues and attend sessions as an audience member as well.  For a department of 30 people, the amount […]

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The Financial Pressure on Faculty

The report entitled “What’s It Worth? The Economic Value of College Majors” is an important study that adds to the growing data base on the outcome of a college education.  It’s a product of Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce, and is authored by Anthony Carnevale, Jeff Strohl, and Michelle Melton. The study collects data […]

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An Unexpected Harmony on the Humanities, But…

Professor of English Mark Bauerlein of Emory University reports on a harmonious conference on the humanities.  Harmony is all very well, but perhaps the conference might have done better to raise embarrassing questions that might have made it more contentious – such as that English Departments have shifted away from offering traditional literature and instead […]

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No Comeback for the Humanities

Here is a story from the Baton Rouge Advocate that confirms the decline of the humanities in the state system (although cuts struck deep into the sciences and education as well).  Officials reviewed hundreds of programs in state colleges and universities, judging them by, among other things, the number of students they graduated each year.  […]

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Politics and the Demise of the Humanities

“But when humanism became the servant of the political or university establishment it lost its vitality and, indeed, its credibility…          Willem Frijhoff discussing 16th century humanism in           A History of the University, Vol. II (Cambridge U Press), p. 45                        […]

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Reading Kant and Debating White Nationalists

The many surveys backing up what those of us in the academy know only too well—that liberals vastly outnumber conservatives—are used to bolster the idealistic argument for “intellectual diversity.” But a viewing of an incident at the recent CPAC conference and a video of a philosophy professor further confirmed my beliefs that it is not […]

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A Terrible Time for New Ph.D.s

“If I don’t succeed in academe, I’ll die!” So read the anguished headline of a Jan. 23 cri de coeur to Salon magazine’s advice columnist, Cary Tennis. The writer was a woman who had apparently spent eight years acquiring a Ph.D. in anthropology, plus another seven years trying unsuccessfully to get an entry-level tenure-track professor’s […]

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Rigoberta’s Revenge: The Implosion Of Anthropology

One of my professors in college defined an anthropologist as “a sociologist in a tent.” His comment was not a compliment — he was a sociologist — but it was true in ways that he did not have in mind. Anthropology has always been a big tent, including as it does what one anthropologist calls […]

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‘Defend the Humanities’–A Dishonest Slogan

College foreign language and literature programs have been in decline for some time, first shrinking, then being consolidated with other departments, and now in a growing number of cases actually closed down. But the recent decision to eliminate French, Italian, Russian and Classics at SUNY Albany appears to have struck a nerve, and caused an […]

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An Omen for the Humanities Everywhere?

The news circulating among humanities professors across the country is the decision by SUNY-Albany to close programs in Classics, French, Italian, Russian, and Theatre. (Judaic Studies, too, has been virtually eliminated and journalism will be cut in half.) The general dismay is palpable, but faculty members should prepare for more of the same in the […]

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Two Problems with the New Doctoral Rankings

The National Research Council has finally issued its rankings of doctoral programs, with coverage appearing here, here, and here . Right now, everybody is trying to assimilate the results, which are more complicated than those in the 1995 report. The “Data-Based Assessment” runs to 282 pages, the “Guide to the Methodology” 57 pages, and each […]

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