Thursday, September 24, 2009

You Mean It's Not Because English Proffies Dress So Badly?

Maybe I'm just dense, but this startling information about a critical drop in the number of Humanities students just never got into my cranium.

I'm a poor English proffie who's been looking for a full time job for FIVE years. Here's why.

The article comes from the Autumn edition of American Scholar. You might want to link to it or give your readers some "flava" - is it wrong that I got a kick out of typing that?


The Decline of the English Department
How it happened and what could be done to reverse it

By William M. Chace
American Scholar

During the last four decades, a well-publicized shift in what undergraduate students prefer to study has taken place in American higher education. The number of young men and women majoring in English has dropped dramatically; the same is true of philosophy, foreign languages, art history, and kindred fields, including history.

While the study of English has become less popular among undergraduates, the study of business has risen to become the most popular major in the nation’s colleges and universities. With more than twice the majors of any other course of study, business has become the concentration of more than one in five American undergraduates.

In one generation, the numbers of those majoring in the humanities dropped from a total of 30 percent to a total of less than 16 percent; during that same generation, business majors climbed from 14 percent to 22 percent. Despite last year’s debacle on Wall Street, the humanities have not benefited; students are still wagering that business jobs will be there when the economy recovers.

What are the causes for this decline? There are several, but at the root is the failure of departments of English across the country to champion, with passion, the books they teach and to make a strong case to undergraduates that the knowledge of those books and the tradition in which they exist is a human good in and of itself. What departments have done instead is dismember the curriculum, drift away from the notion that historical chronology is important, and substitute for the books themselves a scattered array of secondary considerations (identity studies, abstruse theory, sexuality, film and popular culture). In so doing, they have distanced themselves from the young people interested in good books.

Full article here.