The Wall Street Journal recently ran a story about dropping enrollments in the humanities professions. The information is a Harvard review about decreasing enrollments in the humanities; the point they drew is that humanities enrollments are crumbling because the degrees do not instantly offer themselves to post-graduate employment (never mind that the Harvard review makes it obvious that the actual competitors are with the social sciences, not the 1% of humanities-curious first-years who major in computer science).
But to really demonstrate a crisis, you need some figures. Associated with the story was a chart acknowledged to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences displaying an amazing failure in humanities enrollments. And although it shows up in the media regularly to implement a tale of corrosion, some wider viewpoints on the information make obvious that the “Humanities in crisis” tale is seriously embellished. First of all, the chart never quite supports the factor that something dreadful is going on in the humanities right now. Anyone looking carefully will observe, as Eileen Bérubé has, that the actual failure of humanities enrollments occurred in the 1970s. There is small lull in the Great Recession, but enrollments decreased more in the mid-1990s. Sure, a few Harvard degrees have turned from history to government in the last decade, but how much of that should any of us be distressed?
But even if the fall is old, it does succeed in making the humanities appear extremely out of date. If it is not decreasing, it is still past the time of importance. And that is a powerful story for all kinds of individuals. It makes humanists experience as though they are entitled to a bigger share of the school, and that some pathology in the lifestyle at large has them under stress. It allows more traditionalist experts of the humanities feel protected in declaring that something (deconstruction, multiculturalism, etc.) has toppled the areas from their regular position. And it indicates that anyone with an equation to “fix” the humanities can guarantee a comeback in more untroubled times.
Developing on the work of others, like baseball statistics expert Bill James, Beane designed an aggressive group on a limited price range. Again, he did it by finding players that nobody else desired. For example, trainers and supervisors undervalued players who do not swing at pitches and, thus, attracted more walks. These players were underrated because they had low batting average. But they got on base which, of course, is a requirement for scoring. As James outlined, a batter should be assessed by his capability to make runs. Everybody decided that developing runs was essential, but nobody else saw what these players were doing in those conditions. These days, plate discipline and the capability to draw walks are seen as a useful resource and a player’s ‘on-base percentage’, or OBP, is an essential statistic. But back in 2002, baseball undervalued these players , which permitted Beane to sign them to the Oakland A’s. Of course, he was belittled at times by scouts and other baseball associates. Although his techniques were unorthodox at first, ten seasons later, they are considered as the conventional wisdom.
Okay, so you may be considering ‘What does any of this have to do with the value of a humanities degree? It’s relatively simple. As Michael Lewis places it:
“If total miscalculations of an individual’s value could happen on a baseball field, before a live audience of 30, 000, and TV viewers of millions more, what did that say about the statistic of efficiency in other lines of work? If expert baseball players could be over- or under-valued, who couldn’t?”
A startling query. It’s been my argument for a while that humanities degrees are underrated by the industry. There are a lot of people out there whose abilities are ignored by the ruling business culture. What we need are some businesspeople, some Billy Beane-type visionaries, who will see what we humanities graduates have to provide and give us opportunity. There happens to be a big industry ineffectiveness here patiently waiting to be utilized by some smart people. Not only would this cause to more applied humanities graduates, but their companies would be getting a lot too. Actually, they would be getting great value: a solid expertise set for less than the cost of an overvalued MBA. It makes perfect business sense to me.