Letter to the editor: Declining humanities

To the editor:

George Will’s claim in his recent column that the “declining numbers of interested students” in the humanities was because “left-wing academics” offer less than attractive courses is only partially correct. He ignores the most obvious cause of the decline: the substitution of specialty “core courses” in general education for the traditional 40 to 50 hours of required courses in the arts, humanities and sciences, a model endorsed previously for decades. That is, if students are not required to choose courses in the arts, humanities and sciences, they will opt to continue to take courses in their “comfort zones” or majors. The core models do not. Hence, the enrollment decline in humanities (as well as other areas.

The real tragedy is that without a distribution requirement many students will never know whether the serious study of art, humanities or a science was perhaps an area of special interest. In the days of the distribution requirements, many of us found our “calling” by being forced to choose courses in these areas. To let market forces work in education is in effect limiting student choice.

Unfortunately, the enrollment decline in humanities will not correct itself through market forces. As long as students are not required to sample courses in the humanities or other areas, fewer and fewer will find their “calling” in their study, and the number of majors will continue to decline. The system needs to change.

Donald Hatcher,



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