“So you want to get a PhD in the humanities?”
(Created by ALLISONLES at xtranormal)
This video would not be so funny if it weren’t largely true. Universities nationwide are adopting business-based performance models under which humanities and other “underperforming” departments come under the budget knife. For example, Texas A&M recently issued a profit-loss assessment of each of it professors (see Wall Street Journal).
This is not a new trend, but one accelerated by the recent financial and economic crises that have left state-funded and private university coffers much diminished. Not only are those business models demonstrably inappropriate for assessing university education (see, e.g., Daniel Hamermesh and James Kwak), those models haven’t really done so well for businesses either, have they?
What’s at stake here really is society’s valuation of a university education. There certainly are cheaper and better ways to provide young people with vocational education than the university degree. While a university degree is a social imprimatur of sorts that young people will naturally seek, the kind of “education” that mindless applications of such performance models will necessarily produce really amounts to a fraud committed on our youth. They are the ones who will have been denied access to the universitas magistrorum et scholarium that so-called advanced societies should value highly. Those youth may never know what life rewards their contact with such a community would have brought if only universities had remained universities.