The Liberal Arts—RIP

The Liberal Arts—RIP

https://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2022/09/the-liberal-arts-rip.php

Leftists in the academy get very defensive when you charge them with killing the liberal arts, but today the Washington Post provides fairly damning evidence that this proposition is true. The subhed to their story on the “most-regretted majors” of college graduates, drawn from a Federal Reserve study, is: “Almost half of humanities and arts majors regret their choice — and enrollment in those disciplines is shrinking rapidly.” Who dominates the liberal arts in our colleges and universities? Leftists. QED.

From the article, which includes a number of stunning charts and graphs:

Nearly 2 in 5 American college graduates have major regrets. That is, they regret their major. The regretters include a healthy population of liberal arts majors, who may be responding to pervasive social cues. . . nearly half of humanities and arts majors have studier’s remorse as of 2021. . .

The burgeoning regret among humanities and arts majors may help explain why humanities graduates are a dying breed. “There’s a pretty significant change underway,” historian and digital humanist Ben Schmidt said. “The numbers have dropped by 50 percent, and there’s no sign that they’re going to rebound.”

The amusing part of this story is that it doesn’t place the blame for this precipitous decline on the chief culprits, namely postmodernist leftists who have desiccated the humanities with their soul-draining “critical” theories, nor on the high cost of colleges through administrative bloat. Instead, the chief culprit is . . . Barack Obama. I wish I could say I was making this up. But no:

“In the period of the Great Recession, you had Barack Obama out there saying we need more STEM majors and fewer English majors,” Schmidt said. “That was a story you were hearing from a lot of people in influential positions … and I think that made a difference.”

Go ahead and have a good laugh at this.

The left will push back against my charge by saying the high cost of college, and the concern for employment prospects among today’s students, are the main reason for the decline in the humanities, rather than their ideological predations. There is something to this argument. When I was in college in the 1970s, private college tuition was one-third what it is today, adjusted for inflation, so you could afford to indulge your curiosity about the humanities. I say in rejoinder: I hope all you humanities professors like all the expensive diversicrats and other administrators for whom you provide ideological support, as that’s one main reason college has gotten so much more expensive.

But there remains the radicalization of the humanities which has been so widely noted that I hardly need repeat it just now. I have a suspicion that if the surveys these findings are based on included a closer look at humanities-major-regretters, they’d likely find a much lower rate of regrets from conservative students, or students who took humanities courses from conservative or non-leftist professors, who often remain very popular today (much to the annoyance of miserable leftists). That ought to be a clue to the deeper cause of things.

Back when I was in college, if you wanted to make a joke about a frivolous or easy major for lazy or unmotivated students, the example you used was “underwater basket-weaving,” which of course didn’t exist, and had no ideological angle in any case. Today, when someone wants to give an example of a frivolous major, what is the most common example? Gender studies, of course, which does exist, and is definitely ideological.

The Post story does note this:

Among the humanities, only two [fields] increased: cultural, ethnic and gender studies, and linguistics.

Of course, this fact is misleading. These are the radicalized fields that loudly demand more resources (and to which administrations immediately accede), and then mandates that students must take their courses, starting now in high school in California. So the path to the full zombification of higher education continues. If I understand the literature about zombies correctly, the problem with zombies is that they don’t know they’re dead. Like our universities today.

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