I came across the above tweet last week and it made me smile. Jack Bauer, the main character in the FOX television show 24, earned his bachelor’s degree in English literature from UCLA. On one level, it became an interesting answer to, “what can you do with a humanities degree?” You can save the free world, that’s what. Continue reading →
An article in the Wall Street Journal last week decrying the shift in English departments away from the classics reflects the challenge that the Humanities faces because Humanities research often creates discomfort. The article specifically used UCLA’s 2011 curriculum change, which no longer requires semester-long courses on Shakespeare, Milton, and Chaucer, favoring courses that focus on issues of gender, class, race, etc., as a symbol of a focus in critical theory on everyone being victims. Her characterization of these courses illustrates part of the privilege that changes like UCLA’s challenge. She assumes that those doing feminist theory or Chicana literature focus on victimization because, it seems, she cannot imagine anyone celebrating the variety of voices, eloquent voices even, in the world. Critical theory and new ideas in any field can make people uncomfortable and may challenge assumed privileges. This discomfort is a factor in the challenges to the Humanities, including attempts to defund programs. Continue reading →
An interesting article appeared online at the New York Times‘ site back in June (thanks to a friend for sharing a link to it today), making the following argument:
Might the so-called crisis in the humanities be a function of increasing opportunities for women across technical, business, and scientific professions once closed to them, thereby disproportionately forcing female students of the past decades into the so-called more cultured fields thought to be housed in the humanities? A limited option no longer enforced?
I certainly know that my own older sisters, born immediately after WWII, seemed only to have three options (or some overloaded combination of): housewife, nurse, or teacher. That’s hardly the world we live in now.
Did you read the recent piece online at The Atlantic? Building on an earlier online piece from The Chronicle of Higher Education (and using its graphs, like me) it makes the point that, when judged by the percentage of all degrees earned, the anomaly in the Humanities isn’t now but a few decades ago, when the influx of baby boomer freshmen found college majors. The drop that followed their departure is therefore better understood as a normalization.