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Interest in the Humanities Decline
Old 10-31-2013, 11:46 AM   #1
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Interest in the Humanities Decline

As a long ago liberal arts student, this NYT article that discusses worry about the decline of interest and funding for "Humanities", makes me wonder if members of younger generations will create a break in the historical and cultural heritage of education.

It details the reduction in funding and the number of students who are embracing "humanities" as a part of their educational experience.
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/31/ed...orry.html?_r=0

In the past, it seems that some of my links to the NYT have not worked. According to this NYT Q&A... it appears they should. FYI and future reference. Perhaps useful for your own use.
Linking - The New York Times

In any case, do you believe that the necessity of staying afloat in the world of technology, and the increasing emphasis on science is materially changing the attitudes and lifestyles of younger people?
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Old 10-31-2013, 12:21 PM   #2
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As a long ago engineering student, I think that the current crop of students are becoming more realistic about their future especially if it involves a large amount of debt. "Back in the day," student loans weren't as readily available and people were more likely to pay their own way or get money from the Bank of Dad. The value of the typical humanities degree also had more worth with graduates able to go into many non-engineering fields.

I think that employers are now being more specific on the degrees they want to hire. College has become more expensive. That BA in fine arts just doesn't open as many doors as it once did.

Getting that science or engineering degree requires math skills established in high school. I don't see that attracting as many people now as it did when I was in high school. My childrens' high school worried about the kids' self-esteem taking those "hard" math classes. No one gave a rat's behind about my self-esteem and we were all pushed to take math and science classes.
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Old 10-31-2013, 12:27 PM   #3
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Since college became nothing more than job training factories and the value of a degree in the humanities has become ridiculed, I only expect to see this trend accelerate. The perceived value of "education for its own sake" is approaching zero.
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Old 10-31-2013, 12:44 PM   #4
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Since college became nothing more than job training factories and the value of a degree in the humanities has become ridiculed, I only expect to see this trend accelerate. The perceived value of "education for its own sake" is approaching zero.
+1. A little more direct than I planned for my response, otherwise exactly what I'd have said. Welcome to the global economy, and there's no turning back...
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Old 10-31-2013, 12:48 PM   #5
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A well rounded education is still worth having IMO.
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Old 10-31-2013, 12:50 PM   #6
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If not for the humanities requirement in colleges, it would have died long ago. Nothing like being forced to spend thousands of dollars on courses you don't need. My future DIL has a BS in biology and decided to go to night school to get a nursing degree. Wouldn't you know it, she is still required to take more useless classes in humanities, eating up her time and finances.
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Old 10-31-2013, 12:51 PM   #7
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Since college became nothing more than job training factories and the value of a degree in the humanities has become ridiculed, I only expect to see this trend accelerate. The perceived value of "education for its own sake" is approaching zero.
Perhaps another way to put it: With the democratization of college there is more concern about job opportunities. Recall that originally a lot of universities were normal schools or teachers colleges to train teachers, almost all of these have become comprehensive universities. In addition the land grand schools were set up by the Morril act to train folks in Ag, engineering and on the side ROTC. These have also become comprehensive universities over time. (Even the few that kept the A&M name such as Texas A&M (ag and mechanical) are now comprehensive universities.
Actually if you go back far enough (pre 1776) even the Ivys were set up as vocational institutions Harvard was set up to train clergy for example. (of course back then Clergy were the only folks that needed a degree, those who wished to become lawyers apprenticed themselves to a practicing Lawyer and got training. As an example James Monroe read law under Thomas Jefferson's oversight.)
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Old 10-31-2013, 12:54 PM   #8
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The notion that the creation/study/appreciation of our history & literature will die just because enrollment in the humanities is down is ridiculous.

Most societies have rich traditions of literature - written & oral - without highly paid professors to direct them. Many of my techie friends are history & literature buffs and had no academic training in either (aside from high school classes).
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Old 10-31-2013, 12:55 PM   #9
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When I was still teaching I brought up the subject of alternative education during faculty meetings......good thing I am still fairly quick or the laser beams coming out of administration eyeballs would have fried me. To even mention that college might not be the best place to send every student was met with derision. The UK used to be good at apprenticeships etc for other careers, they went away from it and pointed students at only University as the "right" way to go. Now they have very few people who can do things like fix dry stone walls, plumbing etc. Trying to get a decent dependable plumber etc is tough....more so than here. These are good jobs.....no reason colleges can't specialize in these programs as well. Some do.....but not many. Hopefully it will become more popular.
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Old 10-31-2013, 12:58 PM   #10
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The notion that the creation/study/appreciation of our history & literature will die just because enrollment in the humanities is down is ridiculous.

Most societies have rich traditions of literature - written & oral - without highly paid professors to direct them. Many of my techie friends are history & literature buffs and had no academic training in either (aside from high school classes).
I believe it won't "die" but it will diminish.

The bottom line is in that this economy, employers are demanding more and more in-depth and specialized training and knowledge.... and that leaves increasingly less "mental bandwidth" or time to study other areas that interest you. You need more specialized degrees and certifications than ever, and really, does anyone see that trend reversing any time soon?

Which is another reason that BS buckets fill so quickly.
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Old 10-31-2013, 12:59 PM   #11
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I don't mind at all that people are seeking technical degrees, they see that's what employers want. But, I do think that employers also want people who can process a lot of information and reach conclusions and (especially) those who can write well. My non-technical degree helped me do that, and it paid off when I entered the working world. Unfortunately, I think schools do a poor job at weeding out those who don't write well, so employers can't assume that any graduate with a humanities/non-tech degree has the skills they want. OTOH, I doubt the schools are graduating any engineers who can't handle trig.
The decrease in the perceived value of humanities degrees has as much to do with the overall "lowering of the bar" as it does with the value of the course material.
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Old 10-31-2013, 01:04 PM   #12
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I don't mind at all that people are seeking technical degrees, they see that's what employers want. But, I do think that employers also want people who can process a lot of information and reach conclusions and (especially) those who can write well. My non-technical degree helped me do that, and it paid off when I entered the working world. Unfortunately, I think schools do a poor job at weeding out those who don't write well, so employers can't assume that any graduate with a humanities/non-tech degree has the skills they want. OTOH, I doubt the schools are graduating any engineers who can't handle trig.
Employers, of course, are notorious for privatizing profits and socializing costs. So they want the students and the taxpayers to "give" them the educated people they want (it's a cost, so someone else has to pay it). There's nothing from stopping them from contracting with folks who could provide the training exactly as they want it,., except that costs money, so someone else needs to pay it.
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Old 10-31-2013, 01:16 PM   #13
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As a long ago science student, I would like to thank imoldernu for starting yet another thought-provoking thread.

Even back in the day when I was in high school, the return on investment was a significant factor in deciding between arts and sciences. Decades ago, university education was more likely the realm of those with means and the discretion to follow their desires. Over the years it has become commoditized as the minimum for entry to a well paid career. The value of vocational education needs to be better realized (there will always be a demand for plumbers).

I believe that the world needs more scientists, but they need to be able to communicate effectively. The standard of literacy in college students and graduates leaves a lot to be desired and I think this needs to be addressed in grade and high school.
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Old 10-31-2013, 01:18 PM   #14
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Employers, of course, are notorious for privatizing profits and socializing costs. So they want the students and the taxpayers to "give" them the educated people they want (it's a cost, so someone else has to pay it). There's nothing from stopping them from contracting with folks who could provide the training exactly as they want it,., except that costs money, so someone else needs to pay it.
Employers use a college degree as a cheap way to screen applicants. It tells them that the person stuck with something of at least moderate difficulty for at least 4 years and that they can read and write about as well as a 1950s high school graduate. For technical areas the information the student learned is of use to the employer, but even so it could have been learned much more efficiently via a focused course of study. As you say, if someone else is paying the tab, the employer needn't care much about efficiency.
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Old 10-31-2013, 01:21 PM   #15
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Employers use a college degree as a cheap way to screen applicants. It tells them that the person stuck with something of at least moderate difficulty for at least 4 years and that they can read and write about as well as a 1950s high school graduate.
This is a more diplomatic way of putting it than what I was thinking. I was thinking more like: (a) OJT is dead because they seem to think they can get others to pay for it, and (b) the more hoops an applicant will jump through to get a job, the more BS and corporate floggings they are likely to put up with once they are there...
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Old 10-31-2013, 01:23 PM   #16
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I don't mind at all that people are seeking technical degrees, they see that's what employers want. But, I do think that employers also want people who can process a lot of information and reach conclusions and (especially) those who can write well. My non-technical degree helped me do that, and it paid off when I entered the working world. Unfortunately, I think schools do a poor job at weeding out those who don't write well, so employers can't assume that any graduate with a humanities/non-tech degree has the skills they want. OTOH, I doubt the schools are graduating any engineers who can't handle trig.
The decrease in the perceived value of humanities degrees has as much to do with the overall "lowering of the bar" as it does with the value of the course material.
The typical humanities classroom is filled with kids who are being forced to take the course. So, the professors need to make the classes an easy "A" so students will choose their course. If a kid is trying to get into med school, he's not likely to take a humanities course from a professor who challenges his students.
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Old 10-31-2013, 01:36 PM   #17
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The perceived value of "education for its own sake" is approaching zero.
I'm sure we could debate the "value of education for its own sake." Unfortunately, value or no, the COST is going up very rapidly. If a student is going to graduate with $40K to $100K in student loans to repay, they probably want a degree which will give them some chance of getting a job (quickly) which has the potential to help them pay those loans back. That's just my opinion, of course.

Back in the day, ca 1965, my tuition at State supported school was less than $200/semester including all student fees. There were university housing plans (with out food) for less than $1/day OR one could find a student "flop house" for even less OR do what I did: Live at Casa del Mom & Dad (with room and board) for the price of chores (trash run, snow removal, "change that channel for me, son", etc., etc.) The prevailing wage at the time for non-skilled labor was $1.50 to $2.50, so you do the math. The point is, anyone who had made even half decent grades in HS could "afford" a decent college education (science OR humanities) and not need a loan. Honestly, I never heard of people taking student loans when I went to university. I actually graduated from university with a couple of thousand dollars MORE money than when I started.

Many students I knew opted for the humanities. Behind their backs, we 20-year old science majors called these folks FCDoA - Future Cab Drivers of America. Now that I've grown up, I'm a little ashamed of that arrogance, but it's not so much because we were wrong - just arrogant. By the way, we WERE forced (er..., "required") by the university to take 18 hours of humanities as science majors. The only thing I recall from PHIL 101 was being glad when it was behind me with an easy B. Nor had it taken any study time away from the 15 hours of hard science I had taken along with it. That semester, between multiple independent labs and late-night study groups, I was putting in 60 to 70 hour weeks (not counting my week-end j*b). PHIL 101 took 2 hours for classes (attendance taken back in those days) plus maybe an hour to read Plato or Bertrand Russell.

All of this to more-or-less agree with you, ziggy. Now that I'm old and would be interested in just "hanging out" at a university for a few humanities classes, it costs way too much to be worth the enjoyment of picking up what I denigrated all those years ago. Too soon old, etc. etc.
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Old 10-31-2013, 01:52 PM   #18
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Where I came from, it was assumed that high schools already provided all the humanity classes that were needed, and university curricula were all specific to each major. Engineering students took no philosophy classes, and literature majors took no algebra.

One of my achievements in school was when I had the highest score in a senior class in Technical Writing, a required class for engineering students and rightly so as it was not bonehead English but about technical report writing and communication. This was taken when I had been in the US for 3.5 years.
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Old 10-31-2013, 02:54 PM   #19
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Just to interject a bit more about "Humanities".
As a graduate (some 55 years ago) from an eastern all male college that had as its motto... "The Well Rounded Man", I sense a somewhat different definition of the term "humanities".
While I wouldn't pretend to suggest my curriculum being centered on humanities, per se, my studies included these subjects.. other than a major in Abnormal Psychology and minor in German:
Biology 2 sem
Astronomy 2 sem
Art appreciation 2 sem
World and comparative religions 2 sem
Music 2 sem
Creative writing 1 sem
English Lit 1 sem
Calculus 1 sem
French 1 sem
Goethe (German specialty) 1 Sem
Philosophy (audit course)
Anthropology (audit lab - on site)
ROTC 4 years
Physics 1 sem
... in addition to required freshman courses.

Listed here, as many consider Humanities as a course by itself... a term that was not in common use in the 1950's.

Doubtless, a science or other technical education would have proved more remunerative, but at this point, would not trade the breadth of study and knowledge for money.
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Old 10-31-2013, 03:19 PM   #20
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Just to interject a bit more about "Humanities".
As a graduate (some 55 years ago) from an eastern all male college that had as its motto... "The Well Rounded Man", I sense a somewhat different definition of the term "humanities".
While I wouldn't pretend to suggest my curriculum being centered on humanities, per se, my studies included these subjects.. other than a major in Abnormal Psychology and minor in German:
Biology 2 sem
Astronomy 2 sem
Art appreciation 2 sem
World and comparative religions 2 sem
Music 2 sem
Creative writing 1 sem
English Lit 1 sem
Calculus 1 sem
French 1 sem
Goethe (German specialty) 1 Sem
Philosophy (audit course)
Anthropology (audit lab - on site)
ROTC 4 years
Physics 1 sem
... in addition to required freshman courses.

Listed here, as many consider Humanities as a course by itself... a term that was not in common use in the 1950's.

Doubtless, a science or other technical education would have proved more remunerative, but at this point, would not trade the breadth of study and knowledge for money.
In my college experience (Engineer, MBA - early 1970s Eastern College), the only courses I took on that list above were:

Calculus (5 courses - ouch!)
Physics

Man that was along time ago.
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