Well, not the humanities per se. Just the practice of paying a quarter of a million dollars to some group of tweedy eggheads for a bit of guidance on how to read a book. Okay, okay, the guidance and insight from these tweedy tour guides is a bit more involved than teaching someone to boil water, but it’s still something that’s easy to do for free. And if it’s a sunny day, sitting under a tree and reading literature sure beats listening to somebody prattle on about their own pet theories and obsessions.
Tamar Lewin at the NY Times got front-page placement for explaining what the readers around here have known for some time. Many parents figure that the humanities just aren’t worth it.
She has a nice statistic from Stanford where the highly paid professors in the humanities make up 45% of the faculty but teach only 15% of the students. A similar problem confronts all of the universities where the tweedy professors are frantically trying to attract the students to embrace their own feckless mix of nihilism and misreading instead of learning something practical like how to split an atom or how to structure a leveraged buyout.
I always love the part where the reporter digs up someone for the obligatory quote about how kids are treating college as job training instead of a mind expanding opportunity. They always act like it’s the parents’ fault. But where did the parents get that idea? Why from the college industrial complex itself which is always blabbering on and on about how much money college graduates make.
In the long run, Stanford may just be rich enough to continue to divert so much cash into the hands of the itinerant deconstructistas but I think that many schools will just start to cut back on the tweedy set. There’s no way that the schools can continue to charge $250k for the pleasure of talking about people like Paul de Man, just another example of someone who succeeded without a degree.