Cory Leonard

Are Liberal Arts Indefensible in the Face of Middle Class Malaise?

In Uncategorized on November 16, 2015 at 6:23 pm

We see two main arguments in support of the liberal arts in contemporary society:

Some insist that the skills students develop while earning degrees in philosophy and history are, by a happy coincidence, perfect for a life of corporate middle management, or still better, some variety of “knowledge work.” Humanities majors emerge from college exceptionally good at talking, writing, and thinking. What company wouldn’t want to be populated with those sorts of people?

Another set of defenders try to repudiate precisely this market logic. A college education ought to be more than job preparation, they argue. The humanities should be appreciated on their own terms rather than as crude and ineffective instruments for making money. The humanities aim to create well-rounded people, better citizens and colleagues, not more productive employees. To subordinate the humanities to the demands of the marketplace is to corrupt and destroy them.What if humanities education no longer has a significant role to play in American life?

Different though these lines of argument appear, they both assume that the crisis of the humanities is largely a problem of persuasion.

Source: The Humanities at the End of the World – The Chronicle of Higher Education

But, as Alexander I. Jacobs writes in the Chronicle, we are asking the wrong question? What if the” humanities are a luxury”?


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