A Summer of Reports and Articles on the State of the Humanities

There has been a burst of commentary this summer on the humanities crisis (or non-crisis), largely in response to two reports. One was conducted by Harvard University (found here) and the other by a national commission sponsored by the AAAS, titled The Heart of the Matter. Both reports sound alarm bells about the decline of the humanities, pointing to lower undergraduate enrollments as the most visible sign. Many, including Michael Bérubé, Anthony Grafton and quant wizard, Nate Silver, have poked serious holes in the crisis/decline narratives. So have we in a Chronicle piece found here.

The story is much more complex than the “decline” narratives report. Whether or not there is a “crisis” depends largely on what dimension of the humanities critics focus on (graduate study and the academic job market, for example, are clear cases of a crisis) and how the data is contextualized historically. In most cases, pessimists have a decline narrative already in place and then proceed to cherry-pick data confirming that bias. This then becomes a pretext for complaining about “wrong turns” the Humanities have taken in the past and how to remedy them for the future.

Just as I was getting ready to provide a roundup of the recent articles, The Chronicle of Higher Ed beat me to the punch. Have a look here: http://chronicle.com/article/A-Collection-of-Articles-and/140205/

Speak up! Let us know what you think.