Reports about that the job market for humanities and social science major is inhumane.

Peter Wood, president of the conservative National Association of Scholars, has mocked the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ newly released report defending these esoteric studies and seeking  more money from Congress in support of these fields.

The College Fix has a summary:

Cleverly written, Wood’s review prompts a few laugh-out-loud chuckles. But at the Heart of the Matter, Wood spells out the real problem with social sciences:

The humanities haven’t existed forever. They are a division of human inquiry and teaching that grew out of a particular tradition. Humanistic learning was, for many generations, deemed essential for the man who sought to enter public life, and it was also taken as the indispensable grounding for the worthy life of a free individual.

Those views may have been mistaken, but mistaken or not, they no longer have much grip on Americans. We have been slowly dispensing with humanistic learning for a very long time. …

The great 20th century democratization of higher education was intermittently friendly toward the humanities but mass higher education is not really a great fit with the strenuous ideal that students should wrestle with the obdurate materials of human excellence and folly. Mass education throws its emphasis on credentialing students for productive and prosperous careers. The humanities occasionally lend themselves to that purpose, but it isn’t their primary business.

We can inventively shoehorn the humanities into serving practical goals. And that indeed is what the Commission seeks to do. Study the humanities, it says, because if we don’t there will be “grave, long-term consequences for the nation.” But what they mean is that mass literacy is a good idea; voters and consumers should be “informed”; lots of “resources” should be available online; teachers should be well-prepared (and have their student loans forgiven!); foreign languages should be taught; and we should encourage more study abroad. That’s not the whole list of desiderata but the rest of it is similar–practical policy proposals that have thin connections to the humanities as such.

Unless, of course, you redefine the humanities as whatever college professors in the traditional humanities disciplines happen to be teaching at the moment. And that seems to be the whole game. …

Is there a better way to promote the humanities? I am inclined to think the humanities thrive when the humanists are self-evidently offering good and important work. The humanities decline when they descend into triviality. The answer to a nation skeptical of these disciplines is not more balloons, nor better metaphors, or even better-crafted reports. It is better work.

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