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 […]
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 […]
Assessments: To Embrace or Resist?
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 […]
Should Research Be Accessible?
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 […]
Relevance of Research for Teaching
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. […]
What About Research?
In many of the discussions of the relevance of higher education, assertions about the benefits of research usually focus on life-saving developments in the natural sciences. These research outcomes, and all of the failed projects that it takes to produce a major discovery, are extremely important, and such projects receive the bulk of private and public funding. In the midst of the various defenses of the Humanities and Social Sciences, the lack of discussion of the research that scholars in […]
Engaging the Employability Debate
When engaging in the employability debate (which is problematic in its own right), many departments in the Humanities and Social Sciences need to challenge what Gregory Alles calls the “narrow managerial mentality,” the assumption that qualifying for a career requires an undergraduate degree in the field of one’s career. In raising this issue, Alles distinguishes between careers that require “a high percentage of non-transferable ‘hard skills’” and careers that “require the acquisition of a larger percentage of highly transferable ‘soft […]
Is Bigger More Efficient?
In discussions about efficiency, different conceptions of the nature of education become significant. If education is about transferring pieces of knowledge from a learned person to a student, then the difference between a 400 student lecture course, a 30 person classrooms, a 15 student seminar, or an unlimited enrollment in an online course may be limited (although more personal interaction, in my experience, can enhance the acquisition of knowledge). However, if education is about more than becoming a walking encyclopedia, […]
The Benefits of Inefficiency
The murky imbroglio that engulfed the University of Virginia contributed to significant reflection on the relevance of academic institutions and various approaches for the future, including cuts, a corporate model of governance, and the financial benefits of online content delivery. Despite the current resolution with the reinstatement of President Sullivan, these particular issues are part of the conversation about the relevance of the Humanities and Social Sciences. Despite emphasizing examples of scientific discoveries and innovations that developed at research universities, […]
What is the Purpose of Education?
In the current economic environment, with government budget shortfalls and both public and private universities facing cutbacks, departments and disciplines must demonstrate their own necessity. For example, Gov. Rick Scott of Florida said that his state did not need “a lot more anthropologists in this state” but should train university students in “those type of degrees that when they get out of school, they can get a job” (Tampa Bay Times). In response, groups, such as some students from the […]