Humanities Under Attack

Many professors, researchers, practitioners, teachers, and students of humanities feel that their disciplines are under attack by politicians and business leaders who seek to strip funding from their programs or eliminate them entirely.

The United States Congress has repeatedly cut the budget of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the flagship national organization for the humanities in the U.S. “Financing for humanities research in the United States has fallen steadily since 2009, and in 2011 was less than half of one percent of the amount dedicated to science and engineering research and development,” according to a recent article in the New York Times. 

So, although American politicians routinely suggest that their cuts to the humanities are aimed at saving money, these claims are preposterous. How can cutting from humanities budgets that represent a mere 0.5% of the science and engineering budgets really save significant money?

Humanities programs are actually lean and efficient, producing an amazing amount of research for a very minimal investment. Humanities scholars produce vital research on political developments, electoral politics, warfare, peace and reconciliation processes, political theories, philosophies, news reporting, information management, legal reforms, social dynamics, demographic patterns, crime patterns, economic development, technological development, urbanization, globalization, communication patterns, human interactions, group dynamics, gender relations, art history, music history, film production and criticism, and literary forms. In short, researchers in the humanities study how humans think, act, and behave.

Humanities scholars and practitioners provide important services and training in critical reading, textual analysis, historical analysis, statistical analysis, economic analysis, visual analysis, narrative writing, analytical and expository writing, argumentative writing, technical writing, creative writing, grant writing, digital humanities, foreign language acquisition, translation, communication skills, and presentation skills.

Humanities organizations promote music festivals, art festivals, fairs, community theaters, traveling performers, farmers’ markets, community gardens, historical preservation, and local history projects everywhere—often with funding from the NEH or other humanities grantmakers.

Despite the valuable research and services provided by humanities researchers and practitioners, the United States unfortunately is not alone in slashing funding for the humanities. The New York Times reports that: “In the global marketplace of higher education, the humanities are increasingly threatened by decreased funding and political attacks.”

The current attacks on the humanities are about business and political interests seeking to corporatize higher education—to the short-term advantage of corporations and to the long-term disadvantage of university students and future graduates.

Business interests are trying to co-opt curricular programs at many universities, hoping to get universities and colleges to prepare students for specific jobs—rather than develop broader reading, writing, critical, and analytical skills.

The problem is that most people change jobs multiple times during their careers, often transitioning across fields and disciplines with markedly different job descriptions and skill sets. Corporations treat managers and workers as expendable, so most people can be expected to be forced to change jobs and be forced to develop new skills.

The humanities provide precisely the essential reading, writing, critical, and analytical skills that are necessary for transitioning between jobs and defining new career paths in an ever changing global marketplace.

Consider writing to your local, state, and national representatives to oppose cuts to the humanities.

The New York Times reports on attacks on the humanities around the world.


This entry was posted in Careers in History, Digital Humanities, Education Policy, Globalization, History in the Media, Humanities Education and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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