s students and their families rethink the value of the liberal arts, defenders of traditional education are understandably ambivalent. On the one hand, the diminished stature of the liberal arts seems long overdue, and this critical reevaluation might lead to thoughtful reform. On the other, this reevaluation might doom the liberal arts to irrelevance. To that end, Minding the Campus asked a list of distinguished thinkers a straightforward question: should we be unhappy that the liberal arts are going down? Here are responses from Heather Mac Donald, Thomas Lindsay, and Samuel Goldman.
Heather Mac Donald, Manhattan Institute
We shouldn’t only be unhappy if the liberal arts are “going down.” We should be ashamed. Our highest duty as a civilization is to keep alive those works from the past that gave birth to our present freedoms and that constitute the most profound expressions of what it means to be human.
I see no evidence that a “critical evaluation” of the liberal arts is underway, beyond an ignorant flight on the part of some college students towards more allegedly marketable majors. This idea of a job-ready major is a fallacy; outside of vocational training and some select STEM fields, few majors, whether economics or philosophy, have a direct connection to most jobs.
But while the marketable major is an illusion, there is no question that the conceit is driving many students away from humanistic study. The irony is that colleges are themselves wholly responsible for endangering those fields that were once their very raison d’être. For it is their sky-high tuitions that are fueling this migration into purportedly more bankable fields and their adolescent politicization of the humanities that is failing to give students a reason to look back.
Tuition levels are the result of universities’ own decision-making–above all, their insatiable drive to expand their student services bureaucracy. No branch of that endlessly growing bureaucracy is more senseless and self-indulgent than the diversity superstructure, founded as it is on a demonstrable lie: that colleges are bastions of discrimination against minorities and females.