Once more unto the breach --

In Praise of the Arts and Humanities: a Reading List

Add Tech to a Humanities Degree to Bridge the Employment Gap
by Nikki Wiart

Adapting to a brave new job world, schools offer flexible programs so students can add tech to their humanities focus, and vice versa.

Against All Odds? The Enduring Value of Liberal Education in Universities, Professions, and the Labour Market
by Paul Axelrod

The humanities, the social sciences and the fine arts are at risk in Canadian universities, due to the forced reorientation of higher education to assumed market needs. This paper attempts to explain why such policy shifts are occurring, and demonstrates that liberal education produces generally positive economic benefits to the individual graduate. It concludes that policies designed to diminish the presence of liberal education in universities in favour of more supposedly market-worthy subjects are short-sighted and threatening to the integrity and vitality of higher education.

Ah, the Unhumanities!
by David Yaffe

When I chose literature and philosophy, I took the responsibility of committing to my strengths. I’m still committing. I wouldn’t have traded my asymmetrical liberal-arts education for anything.

Are Career-oriented Majors a Waste of a 4-year Higher Education?
by Jeff Selingo

Top business executives in various surveys and interviews say they like workers who are creative, are adaptable, and have the ability to communicate and think critically—all telltale signs of a classic liberal education.

Are Our Colleges and Universities Failing Us?
by John Etchemendy

A long, data-filled assessment of the state of post-secondary education in America, which asserts that concerns about whether those who successfully graduate are adequately prepared for today’s job market, or whether they have achieved appropriate “learning outcomes,” are largely a distraction from the actual problems of higher education in America. 

The Art of Learning
by Drew Faust and Wynton Marsalis

Arts education gives students skills to create, adapt and take risks in the future.

Barista or Better? Where Post-Secondary Education Will Take You
by Ross Finnie

An analysis that suggests that the well-known barista myth is precisely that, and has little grounding in the actual data on student earnings.

Beyond Boyer's Scholarship Reconsidered. Fundamental Change in the University and the Socioeconomic Systems.
by Walter E. Davis & Timothy J. L. Chandler

“The task for a modern industrial society is to achieve what is now technically realizable, namely, a society which is really based on free voluntary participation of people who produce and  create, live their lives freely within institutions they control, and with limited hierarchical structures, possibly none at all” (Noam Chomsky).

The Big Steal: Rise of the Plagiarist in the Digital Age
by Rhodri Marsden

Thanks to the internet, it has never been easier to steal other people's work. There's also a high risk you'll be found out. So why do it? Rhodri Marsden goes in search of a little originality.

Democratic Capacities and the Arts and Humanities 
Diversity & Democracy

This issue of Diversity & Democracy explores how the arts and humanities can enhance students’ capacities for democratic participation within diverse and globally interconnected local and national communities.

Departmental Cultures and Teaching Quality: Overcoming “Hollowed” Collegiality
by F. Massy, Andrea K. Wilger, and Carol Colbeck

Since publication of Ernest Boyer’s “Scholarship Revisited” in 1992, much of the effort to improve undergraduate teaching has focused on faculty reward systems. While this work is compelling, we believe that reward structures offer only a partial explanation for the lack of effective undergraduate teaching. Of equal importance are broader questions about the organizational context within which undergraduate teaching occurs. The most crucial such context is the academic department.

Education for Profit, Education for Freedom 
by Martha C. Nussbaum

Education is often discussed in low-level utilitarian terms: how can we produce technically trained people who can hold onto “our” share of the global market? With the rush to profitability, values precious for the future of democracy are in danger of getting lost. Other abilities— abilities crucial both to the health of democracy and to the creation of a decent world culture and a robust type of global citizenship—are at risk of getting lost in the competitive flurry.

The Heart of the Matter: The Humanities and Social Sciences for a vibrant, competitive, and secure nation
American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Calling the humanities and social sciences essential for American education, security and competitiveness, a Congressionally requested national commission of cultural, business, military and other leaders co-chaired by Duke President Richard H. Brodhead said there is an urgent need to re-focus the country on maintaining national excellence in the disciplines. "As we strive to create a more civil public discourse, a more adaptable and creative workforce, and a more secure nation, the humanities and social sciences are the heart of the matter," said the report prepared by the 53-member commission of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. The group warns of serious consequences to U.S. security and prosperity if Congress and others do not act decisively to strengthen the humanities and social sciences. The Commission’s report has received wide press coverage and statements of support from at least fifteen national and state organizations.

The Hi-Tech Mess of Higher Education
by David Bromwich

Andrew Rossi’s documentary Ivory Tower prods us to think about the crisis of higher education. But is there a crisis?

How My Liberal Arts Education Is Teaching Me To Think In New And Better Ways
by Jahnavi Jayanth

A liberal arts education, as one might understandably mistake, isn’t about studying literature or history alone. As tempting as that might sound, a liberal arts education is an education created for a free citizen, for them to cultivate the wide-ranging, deeply intellectual skills that are required for being active citizens of a democracy.

How to Escape the Community-College Trap
by Ann Hulbert

More than half of community-college students never earn a degree. Here's how to fix that.

The Humanities and Us
by Heather MacDonald

The Humanities Crisis Industry
by Stephon Slemon

You learn in the humanities that everything depends on how the narrative gets told.

The Humanities, Declining? Not According to the Numbers
by Michael Bérubé

There is indeed a crisis in the humanities. It is a crisis in graduate education, in prestige, in funds, and most broadly, in legitimation. But it is not a crisis of undergraduate enrollment.

Humanities Degree Provides Excellent Investment Returns
by Brent Herbert Copley

Find something you love, work hard at it, and seize every opportunity for learning. Rather than focusing on what students choose to study, the more important issue may be how they are prepared for the economy and society of tomorrow.

Humanities Graduates and the British Economy: The Hidden Impact
by Dr Philip Kreager, Institute of Human Sciences, University of Oxford

A good news story for the Humanities: taking a sample of 11,000 Oxford Humanities graduates and analyzing their career destinations, the report shines a light on the breadth and variety of roles in society that they adopt, and the striking consistency with which they have had successful careers in sectors driving economic growth.

Innovations in Higher Education? Hah!
by Ann Kirschner

College leaders need to move beyond talking about transformation before it's too late.

Intercultural Competences: Conceptual and Operational Framework
by Asia Education Foundation

What are intercultural competences and why are they necessary in this globalizing world that has moved people of different backgrounds closer together? What place do intercultural competences take – and what place should they take – in shaping this world?

The Liberal Arts in Illiberal Times
by Amrita Basu, Judith Frank, Adam Sitze, Martha Umphrey

Today, public opinion is governed by cable news networks, social media platforms and online news aggregators that feed consumers a constant drip of outrageous anecdotes that are designed to be easily quoted and quickly circulated. . . . To interpret our campus on these terms certainly may come with a rush of energy and excitement. But it also runs the risk of forgetting our institution’s most basic obligation: to serve the public interest, not public opinion.

Liberal Arts — Which Way to Turn?
McMaster Times

Should we turn away from the liberal arts? That would be a critical mistake, says a group of McMaster alumni who credit studies in the humanities and social sciences as being the critical foundation in their multi-faceted career paths. The Times spoke to this eclectic group who are thoughtful and articulate defenders of their own educational paths.

Liberal Education Key to Business Success
by John Johnson

A new form of business education that links business competences with a grounding in liberal arts and sciences is essential argues a new book.

Liberal Education News Watch
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Subscription site with News Articles and Op-Eds on Liberal Education

Microcosmographia Academica. Being a Guide for the Young Academic Politician
by Francis Macdonald Cornford

If you are young, do not read this book; it is not fit for you; If you are old, throw it away; you have nothing to learn from it; If you are unambitious, light the fire with it; you do not need its guidance. But, if you are neither less than twenty-five years old, nor more than thirty; and if you are ambitious withal, and your spirit hankers after academic politics; read, and may your soul (if you have a soul) find mercy!

Navigating the Rapids: On the Frontiers of the Knowledge Revolution
by Judith A. Ramaley

Over the past twenty years or so, postsecondary institutions have been slowly embracing a culture of engagement that supports the new kinds of relationships and collaborations that will be needed to address the “big questions” and challenges that shape our era. The colleges and universities that will thrive in the twenty-first century will be those that embrace deep engagement with broad societal issues.

The Neoliberal Assault on Academia
by Tarak Barkawi

The neoliberal sacking of the universities runs much deeper than tuition hikes and budget cuts.

“Only Connect…” The Goals of a Liberal Education
by William Cronon

Liberal education nurtures human freedom in the service of human community, which is to say that in the end it celebrates love. Whether we speak of our schools or our universities or ourselves, I hope we will hold fast to this as our constant practice, in the full depth and richness of its many meanings: Only connect.

The Other Public Humanities
by Kristen Case

Among the conclusions frequently drawn about the heavily reported "crisis in the humanities" is that humanities departments are woefully out of touch—with today's students, with the new economy, with the public at large. In response to a similar climate of hostility in the late 1980s and early 90s, the term "public humanities" gained traction, spawning a host of programs designed to forge ties between humanities research and the communities in which it takes place.  But what about the other public humanities—the humanities as practiced in the fluorescent-lit and cinder-block-walled classrooms of the public university? While civic-minded projects are worthy of praise, we must also better articulate what the humanities offer inside the classroom and why those classroom experiences matter for students, especially those served by public universities.

People Without Jobs. Jobs Without People
by Rick Milner

There is a looming demographic and labour market crisis which has the potential to shake the very foundations of our society and economy. Our population is aging; as the baby boomer generation advances into the age of normal retirement, there will be a significant decline in the proportion of our population in the prime working years (15 to 64).  At the same time as our population is aging, the requirements of the labour market are changing. With the emergence of our knowledge economy, the proportion of the labour force requiring some form of education or training beyond high school will increase dramatically. So, we will need both a larger workforce and increased skills. What is most clearly needed is a change in our society’s attitude towards post-secondary education. We have to accept attainment of post-secondary education or training as the expectation for all but a small minority of Ontarians. Without effective action, we face a future with large numbers of unskilled workers looking for jobs that require skills they do not possess, and a large number of jobs that will go unfilled.

A Puzzling Pattern in the Humanities
by Alex Usher

Sh*t Humanities Professors Shouldn’t Say
by Alex Usher

I know there’s a line of argument that says humanities are “really” about critical thinking (though, if that were true they probably wouldn’t be quite so disciplinarily-driven), but it’s one thing to say that, and another to imply that other disciplines do not promote critical thinking.  It’s academic snobbery pure and simple.

Sold Out
Reveiws of Everything for Sale? The Marketisation of UK Higher Education (Roger Brown, with Helen Carasso) and The Great University Gamble: Money, Markets and the Future of Higher Education (Andrew McGettigan)
by Stefan Collini

Future historians, pondering changes in British society from the 1980s onwards, will struggle to account for the following curious fact. Although British business enterprises have an extremely mixed record (frequently posting gigantic losses, mostly failing to match overseas competitors, scarcely benefiting the weaker groups in society), and although such arm’s length public institutions as museums and galleries, the BBC and the universities have by and large a very good record (universally acknowledged creativity, streets ahead of most of their international peers, positive forces for human development and social cohesion), nonetheless over the past three decades politicians have repeatedly attempted to force the second set of institutions to change so that they more closely resemble the first. Some of those historians may even wonder why at the time there was so little concerted protest at this deeply implausible programme. But they will at least record that, alongside its many other achievements, the coalition government took the decisive steps in helping to turn some first-rate universities into third-rate companies.

Stop Defending the Humanities
by Simon During

It turns out that the humanities’ defensive accounts of themselves have some rather curious features. In particular, they tend to pass quickly over what we tacitly know about them as a matter of fact, turning instead to the sermonic. And in insisting on the humanities’ value for society and culture as a whole, these accounts routinely fail to confront their own interest in making this case.

Strategies for Saving the Liberal Arts
by Steven Mintz

Four strategies for saving the liberal arts.

Support Arts Faculties: Embrace Academic Profit Centres
by Alex Usher

Whenever someone at a university argues for the need to concentrate on boosting net revenues, you can pretty much count on large numbers of academic staff getting together to decry the move.  And more often than not, the people brandishing these arguments will be from the Arts faculties. Outside observers usually assume that the Arts professors are hiding behind philosophical arguments in order to protect themselves. This is because many assume that in a shift to a more revenue-boosting system, Arts will be left behind and others will profit. Who knows, Arts professors themselves may believe this. But it’s 100% wrong: in pretty much every university in the world, Arts disciplines are money-spinners.

The Teaching of the Arts and Humanities at Harvard College: Mapping the Future 

This report (70 pages) delves into the intellectual traditions within the humanities, including their important role in critiquing society and imagining alternative futures. 

Which Degree Will Make You a Better Leader?
by Joe Myers

Humanities graduates display better leadership skills in several key areas than those with a business degree, according to a study from a global leadership consultancy.

Who Knew? Arts Education Fuels the Economy
by Sunil Iyengar and Ayanna Hudson

We anticipate a time when arts education is universally valued, on its own terms, as integral to higher education. Until then, the Bureau of Economic Analysis account can help. The arrival of federally certified statistics on the value of arts education to U.S. economic growth gives arts educators, businesses, policy makers, and the general public a national, reliable measure to underscore at least one kind of instrumental value.

Why I Was Wrong About Liberal-Arts Majors
by David Kalt

Looking back at the tech teams that I’ve built at my companies, it’s evident that individuals with liberal arts degrees are by far the sharpest, best­-performing software developers and technology leaders. How can this be? It’s very simple. A well-­rounded liberal arts degree establishes a foundation of critical thinking. Critical thinkers can accomplish anything. A critical thinker is a self­-learning machine that is not constrained by memorizing commands or syntax.

Why Study the Liberal Arts?
by Richard Sigurdson

An Arts degree is valuable in itself, but also teaches many of the skills and abilities that are needed in the contemporary workplace. That is why managers in business, industry and government appreciate the value of an Arts degree in potential employees. They recognize the importance of what are often called "employability skills"--reading, writing, listening, speaking effectively, knowledge of language, critical thinking, problem solving, basic numeracy, information literacy and the capacity to continue to learn for life – and know that university Arts programs have always concentrated on just these skills.

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