Assorted links

by on October 14, 2010 at 10:05 am in Web/Tech | Permalink

1. Mama says.

2. The shortest book titles.

3. Why students are deserting the humanities.

4. The culture that is New Zealand.

5. Do robots have ethnic characteristics?

CorcoranCadet October 14, 2010 at 6:36 am

3. Isn't this likely based on the point that now, more than ever before, students are attending college across many incomes? It isn't like the 1800's where only the elite few who wanted to would attend university. College is no longer seen as a place of learning by many people. It is simply a required step in moving on to a career and making money. The easiest way to do that is to work in a field NOT directly connected to the humanities. In the past I wouldn't need a degree to become Andrew Carnegie. I suppose it could be done now, but the chance of variation in my result is much lower if I go to Harvard Business School. In some sense, our desire to make university learning accesible to everyone has to some degree destroyed the original purpose of these places of higher education.

I don't want to get into the old humanities vs. professional school debate that always occurs on MR. However, I will say this. As a student of the social sciences and arts, I feel that I am very qualified to work in business. Many of the business majors I know have a similar skillset to mine and seem to be doing things that, to me, don't really seem to be all that business specific. Perhaps the signal is stronger to businesses when one graduates from a business school?

RR October 14, 2010 at 7:21 am

2. What else could a biography of Kafka be called other than " K " ?

CorcoranCadet October 14, 2010 at 7:32 am

Andrew,

It most often manifests itself as humanities vs. hard science/professional school. I would disagree that education and learning are the points of debate. Seems more to be an issue of education vs. schooling. Though this disagreement could simply be semantics.

Constant October 14, 2010 at 7:53 am

Abandoment of the humanities may also be caused in part by a decline in the perceived quality of what is taught in the humanities (google for example Alan Sokal). If it is perceived that what is taught in a given department is a lot of rubbish, then enrollment in that department may decline.

TD October 14, 2010 at 8:24 am

Two Things (and others who may know),

Can you provide some links on your explanation for tuition prices? I'd like to learn more.

Ed October 14, 2010 at 9:22 am

I agree with the whole post by CorcoranCadet, but want to highlight this sentence:

"College is no longer seen as a place of learning by many people. It is simply a required step in moving on to a career and making money."

That is really all it is to it. If colleges are to become the entry level job training for businesses, this means essentially teaching what businessmen want taught, which I don't think is humanities.

If a university wanted to discourage being seen as a job training and job credentialling center, it would have meant no addition of business-friendly courses, a smaller intake of students, and a larger percentage of older students (particularly retired people) in their classes. This would have meant less profit for the university. But then running these places like a business has also been effective in running down humanities.

Ed October 14, 2010 at 9:28 am

If I were the parent of a college aged kid, I would discourage him from going into the humanities, but then I might discourage him from going to college altogether.

Its not a criticism of the value of the field, its just a matter of cost. Tuition costs have been rising to the point of unafforability for middle class people, and if you can manage to pay the tuition costs its much easier if the college graduate can start earning money right after graduating. This is becoming less likely for humanities majors, as businesses increasingly refuse to train on the job.

Something will have to give, but I have no idea what or when.

bel October 14, 2010 at 11:33 am
agnostic October 14, 2010 at 12:44 pm

3. Why are convoluted and counter-intuitive answers always preferred to simple and true ones? The reason is that people today, including young people, are just a lot less fascinated by the arts and humanities relative to hard science, social science, and pre-professional programs.

How can we tell? If they were just as intrigued in the arts and humanities as before, but some change specific to university-world caused them to shy away from majoring in them, they would still manifest this fascination outside of university-world. Yet they do not.

Take a look at best-selling books, newspaper articles, blog posts, etc. Not since the '50s has there been such an interest in nerdy topics. Popular science — some hard but especially social science — has exploded in popularity since the mid-'90s. No one is buying popular books that treat a topic from an arts and humanities perspective, and no one is interested in such articles who reads the NYT or whatever. (Those writers always convey an under-siege mentality.)

What underlies this is whether the level of danger is society (measured say by the crime rate) is moving steadily up or down. Up, people see science and technocracy as impotent before the almost supernatural powers that are destroying our safety. Down, people see evidence that humans can intervene to make the world better.

Rising-crime times: 1900-1933, golden age of Modernism in visual, literary, and musical arts, heavy interest in what humanists and arts people were thinking. Also 1959-1992, a resurgence of the arts and humanities crowd. Whether or not you think the Roth / Mailer / Etc. stuff was better than the Proust / Joyce / Etc. stuff, it still showed a re-birth relative to the period of the mid-'30s through 1950s. People cared once more what French philosophers thought, interest in folklore, the supernatural, etc., shot up again.

Falling-crime times: 1934-1958, the golden age of scientism and technocracy, and of nerd worship. They were going to fix the broken economy like surgeons, win WWII, beat the Soviets, give us colonies on the moon with jet-packs and meals that could be eaten as a single hygienic pill. Then 1993-present, the re-birth of the science and engineering spirit, and death of the arts and humanities already described.

bel October 14, 2010 at 5:56 pm

a one of the titles them is copied : We originally by Zamyatin, Yevgeny . and but for V and S no one worth the paper needed to print the title

anonymous October 15, 2010 at 6:06 am

With the Internet and Amazon.com (and yes, even Wikipedia), it's easier than ever for anyone who wishes to pursue what was once traditionally considered a humanities education to do so, at very little cost. That also applies to learning a foreign language (Skype and YouTube and Google Images are also very helpful there), experiencing its culture and reading its literature.

You still need a university to get a "modern" humanities education as it is taught today. But a certain percentage of students who entered the humanities were always young people who just loved literature and reading lots of books, and never cared all that much about "deconstruction" and "close reading" and other academic fashions that frankly might not stand the test of time. Those folks now have the option of doing that on the side while dedicating their exorbitant tuition money to credentialing in an employable field.

jjj October 15, 2010 at 6:57 am

Do humanities programs do a particularly good job of teaching students what businesses need and what good liberal arts programs used to? That is, are their grads good writers, articulate speakers, and careful reasoners? My impression is that standards are so low (humanities tend to have the easiest A's) and the course work is so jargon-filled that TYPICAL humanities grads today (at an above average state university) are less well equipped to write clean prose, argue carefully, speak a foreign language, or even discuss classic writers than their counterparts 40 years ago.

I bet studying Latin or Greek was useful as a signal 100 years ago because a) it was hard and b) the material was taught in a structured, rigorous way.

Bernard Yomtov October 16, 2010 at 8:49 am

Mike A.,

3."And when students have to pay 40 grand to attend Cornell, other colleges and universities must raise their tuitions as well, to stay in competition."

–>And when (diners) have to pay ($150 to eat at Peter Luger's), (Applebee's) must raise (its prices) as well, to stay in competition.

Nah that's not really how it works.

Actually, bizarre as it seems, it does sometimes work that way. At least some prestige schools view their tuition as a signal of their quality, and don't want to be seen as a cheap alternative. Bear in mind that stated, nominal, tuition is not the same as actual charges, since these schools give out a lot of financial aid. Raise nominal tuition $5K and average financial aid per student $5K and real tuition/student hasn't changed, though the amount paid by those with no aid has.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: