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LJWorld.com weblogs Heard on the Hill

Humanities crises therapy

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Once again the humanities are on our minds here at Heard on the Hill.

First, a mea culpa: A few weeks ago in a Journal-World article about the role of the humanities and liberal arts at Kansas University, we referenced a decrease of 210 undergraduate students enrolled in Kansas University’s theatre program from 2007 to 2012. As folks from the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences explained to me, the number did not accurately reflect the change in theatre students during the time period. The decrease from 2007 to 2012 reflected a reclassification of majors with the creation KU School of Art within arts and sciences. Where theatre and film majors had previously been counted together in the theatre department, they were now counted separately, shifting a large numbers of students away theatre to film on paper — but that didn't reflect actual interest in the major. Between 2009, when the School of Art was created, and 2012, undergraduate enrollment in theatre actually increased from 73 to 85. Our apologies for any confusion that caused.

The academic future of arts and humanities is an ongoing topic of conversation not just on the hill but across the country. But a New York Times op-ed article by Gary Gutting, a University of Notre Dame philosophy professor, argues that the crisis extends well beyond the college world. The inability of those interested in creating art or doing humanistic study to find an outlet in the economy is a national economic, cultural — perhaps even a moral — crisis in the country, Gutting writes. Making a living from writing, painting or playing music is all but impossible except for the extraordinarily good and very lucky elite.

If humanities doom and gloom in the media has gotten you down, though, Michael Gibbs Hill, a blogger with the Chronicle of Higher Education, has devised a "Humanities Crisis Mad Lib" to shine a bit of light on all the handwringing over humanities among journalists such as myself. Gibbs also happens to offer a resounding and nuanced defense of the humanities and their role in education.

But there are other crises in [adjective] need of a Mad Lib. You can [strong action verb] yours in to bunglesbee@ljworld.com. I'll happily take your KU news tips, too.

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