On the Problems of the Humanities

Like claims for the need for budget cuts based on the bug bear of deficits, similar claims about the problems of the humanities have a political bent, not a demographic one. Case in point: this argument that the problem with the humanities is its lack of canon, along with the insight that analytic philosophy can teach white dudes and have diversity (we teach Ruth Marcus!). This is what is said to have led to the decline in the humanities, though one wonders if the author is aware of what happens in most places in the humanities, where indeed (perhaps not at Duke) senior faculty often teach lower level courses and, heaven forfend, writing. All this to the non sequitur that the humanities are in decline. Except they are not.


  1. Not reading very carefully, are you? It’s the boutique advanced classes that are dying on the vine, not the early intro classes people have to take because of the humanities requirements in every US degree program, even engineering.

    1. I was responding to this: “Second, too many humanists, especially those with tenure and graduate programs to tend to, have also ceased to teach fundamental skills to the undergraduates they share with colleagues in the sciences. Teaching writing was long ago hived off from the permanent fulltime tenured faculty in English departments, literature departments, journalism and communication schools, to writing programs, to composition classes taught by teaching assistants, adjunct instructors, ‘writing fellows.’ Teaching effective communication to freshman is just not in the full professors’ job description anymore.”

      That clearly suggests that profs only teach upper level boutique classes. This may be the case at some places, but is not the case; it’s a generalization, perhaps, from some elite institutions, but most students are not at those places.

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