Monday, April 5, 2010

Liberal Arts, Humanities Roundup

The following appeared in recent days. Just when you thought there could not be any more essays or forums on the decline in liberal arts education of the crisis of the humanities. . .

Nancy Cook, "The Death of Liberal Arts," Newsweek, April 5, 2010
. . . . But there's no denying that the fight between the cerebral B.A. vs. the practical B.S. is heating up. For now, practicality is the frontrunner, especially as the recession continues to hack into the budgets of both students and the schools they attend.>>>

Richard A. Greenwald, "Graduate Education in the Humanities Faces a Crisis. Let's Not Waste It," Chronicle Review, April 4, 2010.
I was recently reading Dr. Seuss to my 2-year-old daughter, when, bored of The Cat in the Hat and The Lorax, I picked up a lesser book from the Seussian canon: I Had Trouble Getting to Solla Sollew. To my surprise, the plot of that little-known children's book reminded me a great deal of the current crisis of American higher education.>>>

"Graduate Humanities Education: What Should Be Done?" Chronicle Review, April 4, 2010.
Does graduate education in the humanities need reform? By nearly all indications, the answer is yes. The job picture is grim. The Modern Language Association is projecting a 25-percent drop in language-and-literature job ads for the 2009-10 academic year, while the American Historical Association announced that last year's listings were the lowest in a decade.>>>

Simon Jenkins, "Scientists may gloat, but an assault is under way against the arts" the Guardian, March 25, 2010.
Which is more important, science or the humanities? The right answer is not: what do you mean by important? The right answer is a question: Who is doing the asking?>>>

Elizabeth Toohey, "The Marketplace of Ideas: What’s wrong with the higher education system in the US and how can we fix it?" Christian Science Monitor, March 11, 2010.
The structure of the American university has long been a subject of contention, and now is no exception, especially given the current economic climate. Last year, Mark Taylor called for an end to tenure and traditional disciplines in The New York Times op-ed, “End of the University as We Know It,” and William Pannapacker’s column, “Graduate School in the Humanities: Just Don’t Go,” was among the most viewed links on the Chronicle of Higher Education’s website.>>>


Lisa Clark Diller said...

A couple of these articles mention the importance of connecting our humanities teaching with practical experiences/work. Cook's article quotes Ceniza-Levine's "You can be a Harvard philosophy major, but you better have worked at a bank in the summer." This is something I think we resist, but we really really can't anymore. Pushing internships and other work experience, overtly talking about how what we're teaching shapes work skills is crucial. In departments where our growth is stagnant, we should be bringing in professionals who can talk to our majors about how their humanity degrees help them in their work.

And we have to remind students that they are responsible for finding themselves jobs, making themselves someone who others would want to hire. My students too easily get enamored with grad school plans--and not all of them really should go get a Ph.D. It is hard for me to say that, since I love my job so much and my students can tell. If they love the life of the mind, they ultimately often want my job. But we have to articulate alternate visions of what they can do with their degrees and still cultivate that life of the mind. It goes against all our training and temperaments, often, but we owe it to our undergraduate students (and to the future of our profession). We (and they) have to get more creative. And truly, I think most of us DO think that what we teach makes people better citizens, neighbors, family members, employees. So we should connect those dots a bit more.

Randall said...

Agreed. I think one problem in history is that many departments with graduate programs are reluctant to highlight public history and museum studies. Directors of programs need to think a lot more expansively about the full range of possibilities for history MAs and PhDs.