Think New Thoughts! A recent tagline promoting the Department of Religious Studies is not simply highlighting our desire to challenge student preconceptions but emphasizing our department’s effort to develop important intellectual skills. While public discourse often emphasizes education as the means to gain economically and overcome poverty, some evidence suggests that economic privilege breeds economic success and that education for the children of the 1% may differ from education for children of the lower rungs of society. […]
Read More from Who Gets to Think?
Over the past year, the department’s series of reflections about the relevance of the Humanities and Social Sciences left me with the impression that articulating that relevance is quite difficult. We can discuss specific research topics that we see as being relevant, and we can discuss the translation of particular skills that our students gain for different job markets, but those more immediate payoffs become hard to generalize across the different approaches and assumptions within these varied fields. […]
Read More from The Challenge of the Humanities
Politicians continue to attack the Humanities and Social Sciences, most recently the governor of North Carolina reportedly asserted, “I don’t want to subsidize that [gender studies] if that’s not going to get someone a job.” While other posts on this blog (for example “You Just Watch Me” and “I Wonder What Caitlin Makes”) have challenged the assumption that Humanities and Social Science graduates have problems with employment, particular aspects of current public discourse clearly suggest that the skills that majors in the Humanities […]
Read More from For the Sake of Public Discourse
Researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory have asserted that the relevance of humanities and social science research for all fields, including the hard sciences, is typically underestimated. Rather than the traditional method of focusing on citations of articles, this research group analyzed the access through online journal portals, suggesting that humanities and social science journals are accessed more often than they are actually cited. The authors assert, “There can exist stark differences between what people claim they do and what […]
Read More from Underestimating the Relevance of Obscure Research
Can research in Humanities and Social Sciences be quantified? Is something lost in the effort to make our data into tidy, quantifiable measures? A recent post on Scientific American‘s blog argued that too often scholarship in the Humanities and Social Sciences moves towards the quantifiable to gain legitimacy from the hard sciences. The author writes, “Every softer discipline these days seems to feel inadequate unless it becomes harder, more quantifiable, more scientific, more precise. That, it seems, would confer some sort of missing legitimacy in our […]
Read More from The Lure of Hard Science
The challenges that a liberal arts education faces in today’s environment became apparent to me in a new way this week. I noticed for the first time a television ad for a for-profit college that features a young man explicitly asserting that he did not gain job skills in college, so now he is training at this for-profit educational company. Beyond the ideological challenges that public institutions face in today’s climate, a clear monetary incentive exists for some to question […]
Read More from Follow the Money
Does the move toward assessment provide support for the Humanities and Social Sciences or threaten them? Cary Nelson, the final speaker in our series on the Relevance of the Humanities and Social Sciences, published a provocative essay in which he described the move towards assessment as a threat to the “fierce humanities,” which he describes as “teaching that seeks not merely learning, but unlearning, that seeks to unsettle knowledge and assumptions in ways more fundamental than any exam can or should […]
Read More from Assessing Assessment
In what fields do students learn the most? The traditional liberal arts demonstrate the highest gain in student ability, according to data from the 2007 College Learning Assessment test, with the natural sciences and math scoring slightly higher than the humanities and social sciences. Matthew Yglesias argued in a blog post last month, in the wake of the UVa debacle, that recent attacks on the liberal arts as being of little value are misplaced (reproducing a chart from Academically Adrift […]
Read More from Assessments: To Embrace or Resist?
The relevance of research is an implicit topic in a recent blog post (Bulletin for the Study of Religion blog) from Craig Martin, a religious studies scholar at St. Thomas Aquinas College in New York. He questions why scholars outside religious studies often do not engage recent scholarship in religious studies when working on “religion.” He wonders, “Is this because ‘religion’ in the popular imagination is something so naturalized or self-evident that serious theory on it need not be read?” Commenters on his […]
Read More from Should Research Be Accessible?
As the posts earlier this week emphasize, research in the Humanities and Social Sciences have improved our ability to analyze society and operate within it. Highlighting more examples of these contributions from Humanities and Social Science scholars is important in detailing the relevance of these fields today. However, another related benefit of research is its contribution to our teaching. […]
Read More from Relevance of Research for Teaching