Sunday, 29 March 2015

The humanities

Interesting Guardian article on "the war against the humanities".

Steve Jobs was a famous defender of the humanities and liberal arts. The bandwagon for STEM subjects may be an overcorrection.

But. Think of humanities and you perhaps imagine learning an appreciation of art, or reading a life-changing novel, or understanding a region's history - what the Romans called becoming cultus, cultivated. Alas, modern academics in the field often seem more doctus than cultus: learned, in a pejorative, dry-as-dust sense. Publishing articles unread beyond their subfield, greatly citing Foucault, writing turgid prose full of words like "intersectionality" and "discourse":
All shuffle there; all cough in ink;
All wear the carpet with their shoes;
All think what other people think;
All know the man their neighbour knows....
Guess what? Undergraduates are unkeen to suffer  three years of such stuff with no prospects of a decent job at the other end.

Plenty of humanities courses not like this. For example (plug) the creative writing master's degree at UEA has produced some of the best recent UK novelists. That kind of teaching surely has a bright future, because no matter what the pay gap, not all young people will want to be engineers, or even economists.