Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Death of a Field

William M. Chace's "The Decline of the English Department" in The American Scholar encapsulates perfectly my opinion on the rapid decline of the study of literature.  While I cannot improve on much of what Chace has written, I will say this: we are returning to a mindset that values monetary potential over self-improvement, and the middle class (which is currently under seige from all directions, if one believes the media hype about the economy) has always been most concerned about monetary potential.

Chace points out this shift in attitude by comparing admission rates to private and public universities, as well as the driving interest of each:
During the most recent period for which good figures are available (from 1972 to 2005), more young people entered the world of higher education than at any time in American history. Where did they go? Increasingly into public, not private, schools. In the space of that one generation, public colleges and universities wound up with more than 13 million students in their classrooms while private institutions enrolled about 4.5 million. Students in public schools tended toward majors in managerial, technical, and pre-professional fields while students in private schools pursued more traditional and less practical academic subjects.
A push towards "managerial, technical, and pre-professional fields" is hardly surprising in today's economy, when an engineer has the potential to make $80K the first year she is in the field while a writer has the potential to become a waiter.  Who can blame the masses surging away from the humanities?
Previous Posts:
Educating Humanists
Literature and Education

No comments:

Related Posts with Thumbnails