Monday, November 15, 2010

Will the Humanities in Great Britain Survive?

Here is a quote from a great post on this subject by a professor of English literature at a British university:
It's quite likely that I will be out of a job in eighteen months or so.  The funding cuts announced by the government in the wake of the Browne review are particularly savage in the subject area where I work, and in the kind of institution where I work. The emphasis on the so-called STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) subjects means that, in effect, arts and humanities subjects are going to be denied any funding at all, and will have to survive on vastly increased students fees. The real terms cut for a department like mine in the sector of the university market we are in is about 98%. Whether there is a pool of students prepared to pay those fees is another matter, and it seems clear that lots of departments will close, and it is by no means inconceivable that entire universities will have to shut up shop. And, you know, I somehow don't think that will be Oxford and Cambridge. Already, redundancies have been announced, and I know of several institutions where departing staff are simply not being replaced.
Read the rest of this informative post here. Rob Spence, the author of the post, gives a very good insight into what awaits the academics in the Humanities not only in Great Britain but here in North America as well. The people we keep electing (both here in the US and in Great Britain) are dead-set on lowering the level of general intelligence among voters. Only extremely silly, ignorant and uninformed people will ever vote for the likes of Rand Paul, Sarah Palin,  John Boehner, Michele Bachmann, etc. So it's in the direct interest of such politicians to rob their citizens of an education that will teach them to think for themselves, express their opinions, and see glaring holes in the reasoning dished out to us by our ultra-conservatives.

19 comments:

Lindsay said...

Oh no!

As much as I love the STEM fields, and feel like they need to be better taught to a lot more people, I also think the humanities are essential, too.

I wish academic funding weren't always being made into a tug-of-war between STEM and the humanities, because the humanities always lose. :(

V said...

Although I agree with you that something has to be done to save the humanities, I hope you do not consider those into STEM to be those ignoramuses who vote for Sarah Palin...

Clarissa said...

Curiously, everybody I know in the sciences voted for Bush. Both times. There is a very strong conservative bent among the science people. I'm not sure why that is even.

Pagan Topologist said...

I suppose it is debatable whether I am a scientist or not; many of us consider pure mathematics to be an art form. But for what it is worth, I have never voted for either Bush, nor for Reagan. I am horrified at the thought. The Democratic Party is too far right for my sensibilities; the Republican Party is the lunatic fringe.

Rob Spence said...

Thanks for the link, Clarissa. I love it when Americans call me professor! Seriously, I agree with you about the way this sort of thing contributes to a general dumbing-down. If everything is reduced to economic terms, what happens to culture?

Clarissa said...

Thank you for coming by, Rob! I'm honored to see you here. Or rather, honoured.

Lindsay said...

"The Democratic Party is too far right for my sensibilities; the Republican Party is the lunatic fringe."

That's how it is for me, too, Pagan Topologist.

Clarissa, it might be different at your university (which I remember you saying is Midwestern), but my own experience is that all the science faculty at my alma mater (the University of Kansas) were pretty much united in their disdain for Republican/socially conservative policies.

This is probably because I live in *Kansas*, which has been the site of two major Republican-led efforts to block teaching of evolution in public schools --- I remember science faculty at KU, even ones who did not teach biology, all expressing solidarity with the biology professors (and high-school teachers!) who were facing religious and political opposition to their fields. Physics and astronomy professors were also probably aware that they could well be next, once the fundamentalists turned their gaze to the Big Bang Theory....

Clarissa said...

"The Democratic Party is too far right for my sensibilities; the Republican Party is the lunatic fringe. "

-My thoughts exactly. I know that there are scientists (or mathematical artists :-)) who are progressive. Still, it's curious why so many scientists so stronlgy believe that the Republicans will protect their interests. If the higher ed system falls apart, it will fall apart for everybody. Already, the science profs suffer with the mind-numbing ignorance of students fresh out of the NCLB system.

Clarissa said...

"Clarissa, it might be different at your university (which I remember you saying is Midwestern), but my own experience is that all the science faculty at my alma mater (the University of Kansas) were pretty much united in their disdain for Republican/socially conservative policies."

-I was mostly talking about my experienbces at yale and Cornell here. haven't had any time to meet my colleagues in the sciences at my current school in Southern Illinois.

"Physics and astronomy professors were also probably aware that they could well be next, once the fundamentalists turned their gaze to the Big Bang Theory...."

-I also feel that will be the next subject under assault from the conservative folks.

V said...

No, conservatives will not touch physics. For the same reasons communists did not touch physics. One does not mess with people who invent weapons, especially if one is on the messianic quest to world domination.

Pagan Topologist said...

Wishing you a speedy "recovery" from your difficult Monday.

Clarissa said...

Thank you, David! It means a lot that you remembered. I saw this comment in the middle of my class and even metioned to my grad students (without mentioning any names) how much it means to me to have this kind of support from my readers.

Elisabeth said...

Great post from Rob Spence, Clarissa - thank you for pointing me towards it!

Cheers from a big fan of your blog! (and, incidentally, also a frustrated phd student in the UK humanities system slowly seeing my future melt away...)

profacero said...

At one Louisiana university they have fired all faculty in Chemistry and Physics, inviting some to come back as instructors and adjuncts. Our governor, a Rhodes scholar, pushes Intelligent Design.

Clarissa said...

Gosh, profacero, this is horrible. It's like a worst-case scenario from a scary sci-fi novel or something.

sptc said...

Isn't it?! And we are expected to act normal. And it's really just that we've gone corporate and all. But is quite good material for some satirical novel, really.

DM said...

1) I've heard from colleagues in the UK (at Kent, specifically) that their computer science department would get downsized because it is not cost-effective compared to other disciplines... such as arts. I was surprised, but apparently it has to do with compsci needing a higher ratio professors/students.

2) The author of this blog seems to subscribe to the cliché theory that science students are awfully ignorant of the Real World (= other cultures and so on) compared to people who have studied the humanities, thus ensuring a horde of horrors, including voting for the Right.

Excuse me, but this is laughable. Disconnection from the Real World seems to me as widespread in the humanities as in science. For knowledge of the Real World, I'd take a geologist who has travelled around the world over a historian who has spent years studying the ceremonies at the French Court in the 18th century, any time!

Clarissa said...

DM: In my university geology and history are part of the same college and suffer exactly the same cuts, so I don't think it makes much sense to contrast these two departments. The discussion here is about whether it makes sense to privilege withing universitites, say, business schools that graduate people who have not taken a single course outside their area. I've actually seen such graduates, and, believe me, the picture is daunting.

DM said...

I cannot vouch for business schools. Anyway, my personal impression is that being open to the world, looking at things as they are, is largely a question of character and not of the kind of studies. I've known people who majored in sociology (of all things) but hold the most clichéesque opinions on society, and computer scientists who never studied sociology formally but have more balanced opinions.

I realize, however, that the situation in the US cannot be compared to the situation in France. The highschool curriculum in France enforces two foreign languages, and a pretty varied historical and geographic curriculum. The borders are not far, so people are aware that there are other countries where people do things differently without it being ridiculed. In contrast, it seems to me that you can get out of a US highschool knowing zero foreign language and hardly anything about history and geography outside of the US (but maybe I'm mistaken). This leads to different needs at college level.