Ben Schmidt: The Exaggerated Crisis in the HumanitiesRoundup: Talking About History
tags: digital humanities, Harvard, humanities, Ben Schmidt, Edge of the American West
Ben Schmidt is the visiting graduate fellow at the Cultural Observatory at Harvard University.
Last week, the Wall Street Journal ran an article about falling enrollments in the humanities disciplines. The news hook is a Harvard report about declining enrollments in the humanities; the moral they draw is that humanities enrollments are collapsing because the degrees don’t immediately lend themselves to post-graduate jobs. (Never mind that the Harvard report makes clear that the real competition is with the social sciences, not the 1% of humanities-curious first-years who major in computer science).
But to really sell a crisis, you need some numbers. Accompanying the story was a graph credited to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences showing a spectacular collapse in humanities enrollments. I made one of the first versions of this chart working on the Academy’s Humanities Indicators several years ago. And although it shows up in the press periodically to enforce a story of decay, some broader perspective on the data makes clear that the “Humanities in crisis” story is seriously overstated.
First of all, the chart never quite reinforces the point that something terrible is going on in the humanities right now. Anyone looking closely will notice, as Michael Bérubé has, that the real collapse of humanities enrollments happened in the 1970s. There is small lull in the Great Recession, but enrollments dropped more in the mid-1990s. Sure, a few Harvard majors have switched from history to government in the last decade: how much should any of us be worrying about that?...
comments powered by Disqus
- Which is the greatest 'witch hunt' in US political history?
- A Fake Site Posted an Apology for the Mormon Church’s History of Racism
- Republicans Escalate Bitter Fight Over Judicial Nominations
- ‘Bigger Than Watergate’? Both Sides Say Yes, but for Different Reasons
- Is Trump the Second Coming of Reagan?
- When did the Census begin to ask about citizenship?
- As historians and New York City educators, here’s what we hope teachers hear in New York City's new anti-bias training
- Historian's new book backs Taika Waititi's claims New Zealand is 'racist as f**k’
- Howard M. Sachar, GWU scholar and ‘trailblazer’ of Jewish history, dies at 90
- Bernard Lewis, eminent historian of the Middle East, dies at 101