All Hands On Ship! Philosophy’s Been Hit!

Apparently the Humanities are under siege and we are supposed to care.  This is something that came up often in my MA classes. The university I went to had a new president who was less than enthusiastic about the role the humanities took and the amount of money it swallowed up. Though he was also more than willing to rake in the cash the composition requirements pulled in, which was a ton, as they were the largest money makers in the course catalog.

But I would often hear professors, especially the young ones who were more vocal, express their dismay about how the president looked down his nose at the humanities and how the university was just wanting to churn out a workforce for the local area that were similar to drone bees in a hive than to human beings. Many of the things cited in the article, such as money and readily available career options, were cited as reasons the humanities were somewhat less important than hard science and medical degrees while the humanities shot back that they were a core component of basic competancy and ethical deliberation for the other disciplines.

I sided more with the president than with the professors teaching my courses.  And I side more with whoever the Times article likely wasn’t targeted at.

English, foreign language, philosphy, etc. professors may not like to admit it but pondering the meaning of life or reading Jane Austen isn’t really a necessary component of day to day living. And their courses are not required to form anyone’s ethical grounds nor are they even needed for the survival of the arts they criticize. In short, they aren’t the most necessary of courses.

This isn’t to say they aren’t enjoyable. Nor that they don’t lead to a more enriched life experience. But they also don’t necessarily help pay the bills. Or at least they don’t help as much as, say, a nursing degree and I can always read Sartre in my spare time.

Besides, maybe it’s a good thing that the humanities might contract a bit. One of the most often mentioned gripes that I heard in my time milling around professors was the pace now required in churning out articles for publication. It had literally become a grind where it was a constant battle that was difficult to win when a full slate of classes was piled on top of it. With the humanities dialing back a bit, perhaps the competition will lessen and more time will be given to fewer papers.

Regardless of what happens, I’m really not overly concerned about the humanities. They’ve survived for this long, they’ll still be there tomorrow. They might just find themselves back where the article postulates: in the hands of people who can afford it.

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2 Responses to “All Hands On Ship! Philosophy’s Been Hit!”

  1. ophalm Says:

    what do you think about that criticism that the university is just trying to churn out worker drones?

    • charlieblizz Says:

      I think the majority of people have an innate sense of curiosity about the world. Or, given the lack of this curiosity, we also like to be opinionated which forces us to branch out a bit and do things like read.

      At which point if colleges perform the basic function of developing a student’s ability to organize their thoughts and come to informed opinions, they can take those skills into the world and be well-informed, thoughtful people.

      The humanities can provide a guided tour towards broadening a person but it’s not something I see as a necessity. I think we naturally move against being a “drone.” But, then again, I might just be overly optimistic about people.

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