Guest blogger Jeanne Zaino is professor of political science and international studies at Iona College.
In his provocative and deeply depressing The Last Professors Frank Donoghue warns that corporate logic has taken over the academy. His findings are confirmed by Andrew DeBlanco who, in his award winning College: What it Was, Is, and Should Be not only bemoans the demise of liberal arts education, but attributes it to several factors including the “commercialization of American higher education.”
Tellingly neither Donoghue nor DeBlanco call on humanists to rise up. Nor do they offer any real hope that the liberal arts generally, or the humanities in particular, can be resuscitated. Far from a call to arms, these books are elegies, laments, requiems. As Donoghue writes, “the conditions to which many seek a return – healthy humanities departments populated by tenure-track professors who discuss books with adoring students in a cloistered setting – have largely vanished.” Humanists, he goes on to predict, will in time “become an insignificant percentage of the country’s university instructional workforce.” In just a few generations they will have disappeared from all but the most affluent and vaunted of universities (where they will largely be seen more like relics and vestiges of a past life).
If we need any more proof that Donoghue and DeBlanco are right, just consider the news out of Elizabeth City State University. ECSU, a historically black college in North Carolina, recently announced that seven of its undergraduate majors may be abolished due to low enrollment. Among those designated as ‘low productive’ – history, physics, and political science. Three disciplines which have long been deemed essential to a well-rounded liberal arts education. Continue reading