by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Matthew Robare writes for the Martin Center about the future of instruction in the humanities.
Rumors of the humanities’ decline have been greatly exaggerated, a new report by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences says.
While the popularity of specific majors has changed, overall, the humanities as a whole are still attracting a strong number of students. Most importantly, the study didn’t find any evidence for a decline in the number of tenure-track positions or a replacement of full-time faculty with adjunct faculty.
The number of faculty per department varied from about four in folklore studies to 23 in English departments, but a full 77 percent of humanities faculty were employed full-time, and 62 percent of all humanities faculty were tenure-track.
The humanities have many problems, but a mass student exodus or the “adjunctification of the humanities” are not existential threats.
In general, the number of tenure-track positions was flat during the 2017-2018 period surveyed by the report, with linguistics departments reporting slight increases in tenure-track faculty and combined linguistics and literature departments seeing a slight decrease. Communications and non-English languages and literature had the fewest tenure-track faculty in their departments.
According to Steven Mintz of Inside Higher Ed, about half of humanities faculty were women, though the numbers varied among disciplines. According to the study, almost 90 percent of women and gender studies faculty were women, while less than 30 percent of philosophy faculty were.
Inside Higher Ed also reported that the number of humanities degrees has fallen, although students taking humanities classes held steady at 6 million. The top departments were history, English, and anthropology, with about 1,000 undergraduates annually. The bottom departments were musicology, race and ethnic studies, classical studies, folklore, art history, history of science, women and gender studies, and American studies, with 400-500 students in their classes over the course of the academic year.