The Decline of Humanities Majors
This interesting piece in the American Scholar breaks some news of which I was only dimly aware: the number of humanities majors has declined steadily over the last generation. The headline is a little misleading--even though it focuses on the decline of English majors, the piece goes on to note the drop is just as apparent in other areas of the humanities, such as foreign languages and history. No surprise about what's filled the vaccum, of course: from the '70-'71 to '03-'04 school years, the ratio of business majors in American higher education went from 13.7 to 21.9%. The author, a former president of a couple of leading private colleges, suggests one main reason for the change is the country's slow shift in emphasis away from private colleges and universities, which have historically nurtured the humanities, to public institutions, which mostly have not. Three years ago, we noted with interest a book about the many ways in which English majors remain in demand. We were equally interested in a comment our friend
Ron Copfer made in that string: how, as a longtime employer, he had come to appreciate the contributions of English majors.