Verlyn Klinkenborg: The Decline and Fall of the English MajorRoundup: Historians' Take
tags: NYT, liberal arts, Verlyn Klinkenborg, English, opacity
Verlyn Klinkenborg has taught writing at Fordham, St. Olaf, Bennington, and Harvard, among other universities.
...In 1991, 165 students graduated from Yale with a B.A. in English literature. By 2012, that number was 62. In 1991, the top two majors at Yale were history and English. In 2013, they were economics and political science. At Pomona this year, they were economics and mathematics.
Parents have always worried when their children become English majors. What is an English major good for? In a way, the best answer has always been, wait and see — an answer that satisfies no one. And yet it is a real answer, one that reflects the versatility of thought and language that comes from studying literature. Former English majors turn up almost anywhere, in almost any career, and they nearly always bring with them a rich sense of the possibilities of language, literary and otherwise....
STUDYING the humanities should be like standing among colleagues and students on the open deck of a ship moving along the endless coastline of human experience. Instead, now it feels as though people have retreated to tiny cabins in the bowels of the ship, from which they peep out on a small fragment of what may be a coastline or a fog bank or the back of a spouting whale.
There is a certain literal-mindedness in the recent shift away from the humanities. It suggests a number of things. One, the rush to make education pay off presupposes that only the most immediately applicable skills are worth acquiring (though that doesn’t explain the current popularity of political science). Two, the humanities often do a bad job of explaining why the humanities matter. And three, the humanities often do a bad job of teaching the humanities. You don’t have to choose only one of these explanations. All three apply....
comments powered by Disqus
- What Robert E. Lee Wrote to The Times About Slavery in 1858
- ICC orders Mali extremist to pay $3.2 million in reparations
- Political Rage Over Statues? Old News in the Old World
- Deadly U.S. Embassy Bombing in Kenya Was ‘Avoidable,’ According to Scorching New Memoir
- There are certain moments in US history when Confederate monuments go up
- Eric Foner says in an interview that it’s not necessary to remove Confederate statues
- Philip Zelikow says the government should crack down on armed groups of militants
- Conservatives complain that a "Pro-gay U.S. embassy features ‘art’ by anti-Trump professor”
- N. D. B. Connolly says Charlottesville showed that liberalism can’t defeat white supremacy
- Historian William I. Hitchcock schools policymakers: Ike never threatened to use nukes in North Korea