I often find myself in the odd position of addressing the question “why are the humanities disappearing?” In most instances my interrogators assume I will say something about the desire for vocational training in an environment where jobs are scarce. Clearly that is an answer, but a partial and unreflective response.
Julie Evans lives in Woodstock where she spends most of her time trying to figure things out. She is a writer, personal mentor, host of the television program Just Say So and an adjunct instructor for Empire State College. She has just completed her memoir entitled Joy Road.
Late one evening not long ago, I had left the TV tuned to the David Letterman show while I finished up some writing. As the former president of two different public universities – one in the United States and one in Canada – imagine my shock when I heard the following: “I’m dumb, I went to a state college.” Let me repeat that: “I’m dumb,” said Mr. Letterman, “ I went to a state college.”
A recent article by Larry Rulison in the Times Union posed the question, “Research Triangle found the right formula -- can we?” As the article acknowledges, there is no simple answer to this question. Champions of the concept of university–driven innovation made it happen: creative faculty and administration at North Carolina State University, Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; a committed state government; and, industry leaders who saw the competitive advantage of partnering with faculty at research-intensive universities in areas of research and development relevant to their particular product lines.
The recent release of a report by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences entitled, “The Heart of the Matter,” has inspired much discussion in the halls of universities and the halls of Congress regarding the importance of the humanities versus the sciences in the education of our nation’s young people. As stated by Jennifer Schuessler in the New York Times, this report, commissioned by a bipartisan group of legislators is “… intended as a rallying cry against the entrenched idea that the humanities and social sciences are luxuries that employment-minded students can ill afford.”
It was bound to happen. The professoriate has risen in opposition to on-line education. Philosophy professors at San Jose State University said they refuse to use material from an on-line course taught by Harvard professor, Michael Sandel, for fear administrators were angling to cut departmental expenses.
Around the country, thousands upon thousands of young people are graduating from colleges and universities, eager to enter the next phase of their lives – the world of work. They are looking forward to obtaining employment which will make good use of their particular areas of study; and, in many cases, allow them to begin to pay off the often staggering amounts of debt they have accrued.
At age 17, Dylan Dethier couldn’t help but think he’d never really done anything with his life. So, two months before his freshman year was set to begin, he deferred admission to Williams College. With the reluctant blessing of his parents, Dylan set out on his idea of the Great American Road Trip: to play a round of golf in each of the lower forty-eight states.