The Higher Ed Crack Up Begins [updated]

I’ve been predicting, most recently in a lecture last month at Arizona State University that I’ll post up as a podcast at some point soon, that universities would soon begin to divide into two entities—the STEM fields and related practical subjects (i.e., business and economics), and the social sciences and humanities, which would start to shrivel under the weight of the degradations the left has inflicted over the last 40 years. The number of students majoring in the humanities has declined by two-thirds since around 1980.

Here’s part of what I said at Arizona State:

I think we’re already seeing the beginnings of a de facto divorce of universities, in which the STEM fields and other “practical” disciplines essentially split off from the humanities and social sciences, not to mention the more politicized departments.

At this rate eventually many of our leading research universities will bifurcate into marginal fever swamps of radicalism whose majors will be unfit for employment at Starbucks, and a larger campus dedicated to science and technology education.

I added, incidentally, the interesting fact that a new trend is starting to occur in economics. Not only is the discipline subdividing itself into “general economics” and an even more math-centric “quantitative econometrics,” but several economics departments are formally reclassifying themselves as STEM departments for a variety of reasons, but among them surely has to be wishing to disassociate themselves further from other social sciences.

Well, now we have some concrete evidence of this crackup starting to happen. The University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point campus announced last week that it intends to cut 13 majors from the humanities and social sciences. Inside Higher Ed reports:

Programs pegged for closure are American studies, art (excluding graphic design), English (excluding English for teacher certification), French, geography, geoscience, German, history (excluding social science for teacher certification), music literature, philosophy, political science, sociology and Spanish.

The even better news is that some tenured professors are going to be laid off. Naturally, the faculty are not happy. Who’s next?

UPDATE: A number of early commenters have offered the sensible thought that potentially worthy majors (history, English, etc) are being cut, while the fully politicized fever swamps—gender studies, etc—are apparently being left in place. To which I would say, you’d be astounded at how politicized some foreign language departments are. Many English departments are totally lost to the left; one easy screen is to see whether they have dropped Shakespeare as a requirement for an English degree. When you see that, you can cross them off your list. I’ve already written here about how most Geography departments have become leftist fever swamps that have nothing to do any more with what you’d recognize as “geography,” and I’ll bet “geoscience” is doubtful too. History is often more than half lost to the left, too, though there is more variance in History.

Leaving the “studies” departments untouched may be a reflection of the current political power of the left, but I think eliminating the traditional departments first is a brilliant move. It will further isolate the crazy “studies” departments, and may galvanize the faculty members who know, but lack the courage to say, that these “studies” programs are mediocre fever swamps. If more and more tenured faculty in traditional departments face the axe, they just might start to find some courage to say aloud what everyone knows—that the academic emperor of oppression studies isn’t wearing any intellectual clothes.

Take heart: the fun is just beginning.

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