Student disciplines, humanities lose their luster

Tim Goral's picture
Monday, November 11, 2013

We have little doubt that Phil Hanlon, the newly installed president of Dartmouth College and a torchbearer for the liberal arts, can mount a credible defense of the humanities. But his address to the faculty last Monday was apparently not an occasion to do so.

As Valley News staff writer Sarah Brubeck reported, Hanlon’s vision for the institution includes expanding the Thayer School of Engineering and the Tuck School of Business; increasing the number of post-doctoral scholars; promoting opportunities for experiential learning; and hiring professors for multidisciplinary pursuits in such topics as “financial markets.” All well and good, perhaps, though not necessarily reassuring to those who fret about the future of the humanities in higher education. English, history, philosophy, religion, art and other disciplines that explore human nature, culture and creativity are traditional pillars of academe. But, as The New York Times recently reported, they have lost influence as science and technology attract more student attention and far more government research money. Hanlon’s remarks illustrated the ascendancy, or perhaps supremacy, of what’s known as STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

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