Sunday, November 20, 2011

Are the humanities in deep doo-doo?


The view of the National Endowment for the Humanities:

Because democracy demands wisdom, the National Endowment for the Humanities serves and strengthens our Republic by promoting excellence in the humanities and conveying the lessons of history to all Americans. The Endowment accomplishes this mission by providing grants for high-quality humanities projects in four funding areas: preserving and providing access to cultural resources, education, research, and public programs.

NEH grants typically go to cultural institutions, such as museums, archives, libraries, colleges, universities, public television, and radio stations, and to individual scholars. The grants:

-strengthen teaching and learning in the humanities in schools and colleges across the nation
-facilitate research and original scholarship
-provide opportunities for lifelong learning
-preserve and provide access to cultural and educational resources
-strengthen the institutional base of the humanities

My own view:

The humanities are vital to the creation of well-educated citizens.

But, they are no longer viable majors. In my day --- the sixties and seventies --- a liberal education was the ticket to a good job. Somebody would hire and train you to do something that merited a decent paycheck. In 2011, it's enough to get you a job as a salesperson, a retail clerk, or an unpaid internship. And, for the majority of such grads, that's just about it.

The Department of Education is right to focus on gainful employment. The accrediting agencies should be forced to do the same. And so should every college in the country... not merely "career colleges."

This doesn't preclude a sound foundation in the humanities. It demands that practical skills be layered on top of that foundation.

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