Reading the press lately, you’d think the American university system is the next mortgage market. And the humanities? They’re toxic debt. Here’s a quick recap of the grim parade of stories:
- Last week, The New York Times set the stage with this: an article detailing how students are drowning in debt, which raises the questions: Can students still afford America’s expensive universities? And will banks keep making these loans? The Washington Examiner goes further and bluntly asks: Is a Higher Education Bubble about to Burst?
- Next, in The New Yorker, a widely-read article offers this factoid: During the coming decade, most of the sectors adding jobs in the US won’t require a college degree. So some academics (yes, academics) are left wondering, “why not save the money and put it towards a house?” Or, put differently, is a college education really worth the money?
- The meme continues yesterday with David Brooks musing in an opinion piece: “When the going gets tough, the tough take accounting. When the job market worsens, many students figure they can’t indulge in an English or a history major. They have to study something that will lead directly to a job.” “There already has been a nearly 50 percent drop in the portion of liberal arts majors over the past generation, and that trend is bound to accelerate.” So why bother with a humanities education? Brooks tries to make his best case, and it’s not a bad one. But I’m not sure that a younger generation is listening. And if you listen to this 2008 interview with Harold Bloom, they maybe shouldn’t be.
- And just to top things off: Stanley Fish launches his own defense of a “classical education,” even if it “sounds downright antediluvian, outmoded, narrow and elitist.” You get the drift. Another sign that the humanities is in a bear market.