More on the “Crisis in the Humanities”

Via Brian Leiter:

I suspect we’re probably better if we don’t buy into the narrative of collapse at all. More people are majoring in humanities fields. More books are being published in them. Whatever problems we have, they’re not really about quantity. A fixation on corporatist measures of market share as representing the success of these fields is completely contrary to their aspirations. New enrollments in graduate programs are almost certainly not materially helping the field, but we too often act as if they are.


It’s a non-story to say that the humanities are a minor but important part of the economy of the changing university. Everyone loves a narrative. But when someone tells you the humanities are collapsing, it’s worth remembering that even the universities, to say nothing of the country as a whole, have never been the bastions of humanistic learning we want to remember.

Recall that a few days ago Leiter linked to this report, by the chair of Duke’s philosophy department, which takes its premise the crisis in the humanities, which he says is in part led by upper level courses that don’t speak to people’s experiences. In fact, I think the shake-up of the canon has led, in a diverse society, to a greater ability of speaking to students’ lived experience–and moreover, to talk about what is beyond that lived experience as well.

A Crisis in the Humanities? – The Edge of the American West – The Chronicle of Higher Education.