Jan 082012

The false assumption in both anti-utilitarian defenses of the humanities and pessimistic predictions of their extinction is that we have to choose between a credentializing and a humanizing view of higher education, between vocational utility and high-minded study as an end in itself. This either/or way of thinking about the humanities — either they exist solely for their own sake or they have no justification at all – is a trap that leaves humanists unable to argue for the value of their work in terms of the practical skills it teaches, an argument that inevitably has to be made in the changing marketplace of higher education. In fact, we would argue there is no defense of the humanities that is not ultimately based on the useful skills it teaches.
@ insidehighered.com

  One Response to “Defending the humanities”

  1. To go along with this, the book <i>Academically Adrift</i> (<a href="http://www.npr.org/books/titles/137918082/academically-adrift-limited-learning-on-college-campuses#excerpt">here's an excerpt from NPR</a>), which came out last year,<i> </i>argues, by use of a massive study, that students who major in traditional liberal arts majors like philosophy and literature tend to improve critical thinking, reading, and writing skills at drastically higher rates over the course of their undergraduate careers than those who choose career-oriented majors like business.  I by no means endorse everything the book has to offer–it contains a really half-baked argument against collaborative learning, for example, which only reveals the authors' ignorance of what constitutes collaborative learning, and its authors fall into the slippery slope mode of thinking they have identified some irreversible and catastrophic crisis in higher ed a little too often.  Still, it does provide some provocative evidence to show how certain kinds of learning aren't really happen in college, implying that the erosion of the humanist tradition of education might be connected.

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