A variety of recent indicators demonstrate just how much the humanities are suffering—both in material support and perceived value. Investment in humanities research is breathtakingly small—only 0.48% of the amount dedicated to science and engineering research and development in higher education. Federal spending for programs that focus specifically on humanities activities fell from $855 million in 2008 to $594 million in 2014. And no more than a third of American undergraduates major in the arts and humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences combined—no more than 1% in English language and literature, 1% in foreign languages, and less than 1% in philosophy and religious studies.
Yet, while the humanities have historically served as the very core of a liberal arts education and the skills and perspectives they offer are increasingly sought by business leaders across industries, humanists appear divided about how to respond to critics and reverses negative trends that continue to threaten the humanities both within and beyond the academy.
NHC Position Statement
The National Humanities Center has not issued an official statement concerning this issue.
Find out how you can get informed, get involved, and take action on this and other issues.
What experts are saying:
- Newman, Robert D. “Saving the World with Metaphor: Toward an Ecological Poetics.” Los Angeles Review of Books, May 23, 2018.
- Potter, Claire. “Are the Humanities Really in Crisis?” Public Seminar, February 14, 2018.
- Robinson, Marilynne. “What Are We Doing Here?” The New York Review of Books, November 9, 2017.
- Mintz, Steven. “Strategies for Saving the Liberal Arts.” Inside Higher Ed, February 8, 2017.
- Faust, Drew Gilpin, and Leon Wieseltier. “Do We Need to Rescue the Humanities?” Aspen Ideas Festival, 2016.
- Hendricks, Scotty. “Need Another Use for a Liberal Arts Education? How About Learning to be a Citizen?” Big Think, December 2, 2017.
- Robinson, Marilynne. “Save Our Public Universities.” Harper’s Magazine, March 7, 2018.
- Stover, Justin. “There Is No Case for the Humanities.” American Affairs, November 20, 2017.
- Lattier, Daniel. “Why Professors Are Writing Crap That Nobody Reads.” Intellectual Takeout, October 26, 2016.
- Donohue, Denis.“What Humanists Do: ‘Introduction’.” Daedalus Special Issue, Winter 2014.
Research & Resources
Materials for further exploration:
- A Statement On Behalf of the Humanities and Social Sciences, August 12, 2020.
- Gallup-Purdue Study of College Graduates, 2014.
- The Teaching of the Arts and Humanities at Harvard College: Mapping the Future