Most of the students he sees are pretty poor writers, Klinbkenborg says. (Something I find generally true in my line of work; today’s young people can write a helluva snarky comment for Gawker; not so good at writing a lot else.)
They can assemble strings of jargon and generate clots of ventriloquistic syntax. They can meta-metastasize any thematic or ideological notion they happen upon.
Clearly they have been reading the Harvard Gazette.
Part of the problem, Klinkenborg argues, is that fewer and fewer students are majoring in the humanities.
There is a certain literal-mindedness in the recent shift away from the humanities. It suggests a number of things. One, the rush to make education pay off presupposes that only the most immediately applicable skills are worth acquiring (though that doesn’t explain the current popularity of political science). Two, the humanities often do a bad job of explaining why the humanities matter. And three, the humanities often do a bad job of teaching the humanities. You don’t have to choose only one of these explanations. All three apply.
That strikes me as a pretty reasonable explanation of the situation. I also think that the enormous and quick riches offered by Internet success lure young people away from the humanities—just one hit app and you’re a billionaire!—and all the discussion from rich tech guys about why kids should skip college isn’t helping either. Of course, sky-high college tuitions also push kids toward majors that seem more likely to translate into jobs than humanities majors……
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