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Closing the book on the “Crisis of the Humanities” means we finally have time to read more books

By December 20, 2015No Comments

A great new article about college enrollment numbers strongly confirms a conclusion I’ve been coming to for a while now about the “crisis in the Humanities.”

1)  The Humanities are not in crisis;

2)  To the extent humanities enrollment is in decline, it is as a result of the Humanities’ key successes in opening supporting the ambitions of women and minorities to be accepted in roles where they previously were not;

3)  Any crisis of confidence within the humanities is entirely the result of self-inflicted wounds.

“Crisis of confidence” is, I think, the right term:  much of what I hear coming out of the academy is not a robust defense of the humanities and why they matter so much as a moaning that our funding is being taken away.  This is entirely the wrong approach:  we should be bold.  We should be finding new, more poetic, ways to say that poetry matters – and be unapologetic about exposing the next generation to the best of what was written and thought.

The Aeon article suggests that far from whining about a non-decline, we should be far more concerned with the rise pseudo-professional disciplines.  There’s nothing wrong with a vocational education but, we’re not talking about plumbers and electricians here.  Look, I’m just going to say it:  isn’t “business school” just a self-help cult for rich white bros?

Isn’t the very act of majoring in “Marketing” a cry for help?

The problem isn’t a drop of enrollment in the Humanities – which to the extent it’s happening at all is happening for reasons we can be proud of.  The problem is an institutionalization of intellectual mediocrity, and the fact that the Academy is not a safe space from it.