Study the Humanities and Save America

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

The Challenge of the Humanities


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

“We Have Failed to Make the Case for Those Skills…”

graduationHave you read this article, posted online by the University of Missouri’s Department of Religious Studies? It’s on the unemployment rates for various degrees, and fields in the Humanities are far lower than the “crisis in the humanities” rhetoric portrays it.

As the article argues: Continue reading

There Is No Crisis

handsA friend up in Canada posted a link to this brief blog post from the other day–have you seen it? In response to a New York Times article, tracking supposed declining interest in the Humanities, it argues:

Picture 3It does make one wonder how we judge the strength of academic fields and, depending on how we answer that, then in whose interest is the now taken-for-granted narrative of “the humanities in crisis”?

Crisis? What Crisis?

t1larg.women.workplaceAn 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:

Picture 2Might 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.

See what you think of the article.

The Humanities Aren’t in Crisis

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.

David_Silbey_Humanities_as_Percentage_of_Degrees Continue reading