Humanities Departments to Blame for the Decline in the Humanities

So says Daniel McInery in The Humanities in a Digital Age: Online Higher Education

The humanities in American higher education are in deep crisis, and the cry of alarm released on June 18 by the American Academy of Arts & Sciences will probably contribute little to a renaissance.

The humanities themselves, as they are generally practiced throughout academia, surely deserve the lion’s share of the blame for the crisis. For decades now they have failed to make a compelling case for their centrality to a happy and productive life. They have indulged a passion for skepticism, materialism, nihilism, and one or two other noxious isms that one can find catalogued and critiqued in Blessed Pope John Paul II’s encyclical, Fides et Ratio, and in so doing they have, perhaps unwittingly, consigned themselves to irrelevance.

Five Things Every Liberal Arts College Should Do

…according to Mortimer J. Adler that is, if that college wants to succeed in meeting the goals of a liberal education:

  1. A liberal arts college should not allow any form of special training for specific jobs, vocations, or even learned professions to intrude itself into the curriculum.
  2. A liberal arts college should not provide any elective courses in its curriculum, nor should it afford any opportunities for specialization in particular subject matters.
  3. The faculty of a liberal arts college should not be divided into departmental groups, each representing special competence in some particular subject matter, and narrow interest in some limited field of learning.
  4. No textbooks should be used in a liberal arts college; there should be no lectures in courses; and formal lectures should be kept to the minimum and should, wherever possible, be of such generality that they can be given to the whole student body.
  5. Written examinations, especially of the objective or true-false type, should be eliminated in favor of oral examinations.

To find out why Adler argues for these five recommendations, see his essay, “Liberal Schooling in the Twentieth Century” (1962).