The latest to address this theme is Alex Rosenberg, the R. Taylor Cole Professor of Philosophy at Duke. Here is a taste of his piece at 3:AM Magazine:
For the problems of the humanities are self-inflicted wounds well recognized by their colleagues in other faculties.
First, over the last two generations the humanities (except for philosophy) have lost faith with their callings as the bearers of a continuous cultural inheritance–a canon, for want of a better word. They have viewed the need to widen their curricula as a zero sum game, in which the entrance of more women, underrepresented minorities, nonwestern peoples has required the exclusion of more dead white dudes. Maybe it has. But the result has been an advanced curriculum their students find foreign and their colleagues educated before this sea change cannot appreciate. The “boutique” courses they teach in their majors, the heavy doses of “theory” they lay on in graduate classes, make it difficult to connect with their students in ways that would provide the purpose, meaning, appreciation of complexity, or recognition of adversity that the presidents of Michigan and Stanford hope for.
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.
Similarly, the faculty in the foreign languages have rationally decided that their “research” and the preparation of the next generation of university scholars is far more important than teaching introductory Spanish, or French or German. Indeed, many hold themselves unqualified to do it. Teaching writing in English or teaching the first years of a foreign language, is now deemed a technical skill requiring special training that tenured professors don’t have time to acquire and use, given their need to produce scholarship.
We can’t really blame humanities faculty for their priorities. The incentive structure of the tenure system is as much to blame for the disconnect between what most students need and what tenured humanities faculty are rewarded for doing.
Tom Van Dyke says
Until 2011, students majoring in English at UCLA had to take one course in Chaucer, two in Shakespeare, and one in Milton —the cornerstones of English literature. Following a revolt of the junior faculty, however, during which it was announced that Shakespeare was part of the “Empire,” UCLA junked these individual author requirements. It replaced them with a mandate that all English majors take a total of three courses in the following four areas: Gender, Race, Ethnicity, Disability and Sexuality Studies; Imperial, Transnational, and Postcolonial Studies; genre studies, interdisciplinary studies, and critical theory; or creative writing.
In other words, the UCLA faculty was now officially indifferent to whether an English major had ever read a word of Chaucer, Milton or Shakespeare, but the department was determined to expose students, according to the course catalog, to “alternative rubrics of gender, sexuality, race, and class.”
The academic establishment is stealing these kids' money, putting them in half a lifetime of debt in return for bullshit classes about bullshit theories.
Tom Van Dyke says
Is Graduate School a Racket?
—By Kevin Drum
Tom Van Dyke says
And Harvard Business Review here. At the moment the academic establishment holds the keys to career progress hostage, but the college degree, but that monopoly will not hold.
“Higher education, however, is in the midst of dramatic, disruptive change. It is, to use the language of innovation theorists and practitioners, being unbundled. And with that unbundling, the traditional credential is rapidly losing relevance. The value of paper degrees lies in a common agreement to accept them as a proxy for competence and status, and that agreement is less rock solid than the higher education establishment would like to believe.
The value of paper degrees will inevitably decline when employers or other evaluators avail themselves of more efficient and holistic ways for applicants to demonstrate aptitude and skill. “