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:
- Saving the World with Metaphor: Toward an Ecological Poetics (Robert D. Newman, Los Angeles Review of Books, 5/23/18)
- Are the Humanities Really in Crisis? (Claire Potter, Public Seminar, 2/14/18)
- What Are We Doing Here? (Marilynne Robinson, The New York Review of Books, 11/9/17)
- Strategies for Saving the Liberal Arts (Steven Mintz, Inside Higher Ed, 2/8/17)
- Do We Need to Rescue the Humanities? (Drew Gilpin Faust and Leon Wieseltier, Aspen Ideas Festival, 2016)
- Need Another Use for a Liberal Arts Education? How About Learning to be a Citizen? (Scotty Hendricks, Big Think, 12/2/17)
- Save Our Public Universities (Marilynne Robinson, Harper’s Magazine, 3/7/18)
- There Is No Case for the Humanities (Justin Stover, American Affairs, 11/20/17)
- Why Professors Are Writing Crap That Nobody Reads (Daniel Lattier, Intellectual Takeout, 10/26/16)
- What Humanists Do: “Introduction” (Denis Donohue, Daedalus Special Issue, Winter 2014)
Research & Resources
Materials for further exploration:
- Gallup-Purdue Study of College Graduates (2014)
- Association of American Colleges and Universities Report on Liberal Arts Degrees and Their Value in the Employment Market (2014)
- The Teaching of the Arts and Humanities at Harvard College: Mapping the Future