Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Humanities, Then and Now

From John Ellis, one of the first bloggers I ever read (assuming it's the same John Ellis!):

College foreign language and literature programs have been in decline for some time, first shrinking, then being consolidated with other departments, and now in a growing number of cases actually closed down. But the recent decision to eliminate French, Italian, Russian and Classics at SUNY Albany appears to have struck a nerve, and caused an outcry: "Defend the Humanities!"

It's a cry that has been heard many times in the past. As the segment of the university that has no direct link to a career-providing profession, the humanities have regularly been called upon to justify their usefulness, but the justification is easy to make, and it is an honorable one that instantly commands respect...

There was a time when "save the humanities" would have been an appropriate cry, but that was years ago, when they were being dismantled in one department after another and replaced with the intellectual triviality and sheer boredom of endlessly repetitive Marxist identity politics, as cowardly administrators looked on and did nothing. The poverty of intellectual content was masked by an elaborate jargon, but that only made things worse: the remade programs became the laughing stock of their campuses. But now the day of reckoning has arrived. Enrollments have collapsed, to the point where the smaller departments face extinction. Those enrollments are sinking not because students don't value the humanities, but because they do.

Hard to fault his thesis.

1 comment:

s said...

Interesting thesis-I'd like to dispute it, but from what I've seen, I can't.....and I'm in the humanities......
Here's one for ya; last week's job interview for teaching college history, I made the remark 'we won' in terms of the American Revolution. I was rapped on the knuckles by a polysci prof...and I'm a flaming democrat....