by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Fabio Rojas uses a Martin Center column to contrast struggling college humanities programs with flourishing humanities.
There is no reason to think that a modern capitalist society rejects the humanities. A skeptical reader on the left might be shocked by these claims, but the evidence is all around us. We live in a world with an abundance of creative work. Anyone can visit YouTube and see nearly every Shakespeare play without paying a single penny. A website called “Philosophy Index” offers complete online versions of classic philosophy. Every year, billions of dollars are spent on books and the business data website Statista estimates that the global book market will increase from $113 billion in 2015 to $123 billion in 2020. Roughly speaking, that means the average person on earth is spending about $17 per year on books, which includes novels and popular history.
If capitalism isn’t killing off the humanities, then why do people keep saying there is a crisis in the humanities? Observers often conflate two very different things: humanities broadly understood and college programs in the humanities. The world of novels, film, and art are growing; we live in a golden age of the living humanities. In contrast, academic programs are reeling from declining enrollments. …
… Universities continue to offer courses on the canonical humanities and students still sign up for these courses. If this is the case, then why are departments losing students?
Simply put, college students today are less likely to say that they are attending school for the sake of knowledge. Instead, they are more likely to say that they want a college education to get a job.