On Campus
Oct 19, 2009, 01:00PM

"Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?"

The fall of the English department.

During the last four decades, a well-publicized shift in what undergraduate students prefer to study has taken place in American higher education. The number of young men and women majoring in English has dropped dramatically; the same is true of philosophy, foreign languages, art history, and kindred fields, including history. As someone who has taught in four university English departments over the last 40 years, I am dismayed by this shift, as are my colleagues here and there across the land. And because it is probably irreversible, it is important to attempt to sort out the reasons—the many reasons—for what has happened.

  • It's bitterly funny that this article is written in the stuffy, ponderous, passive, slightly vague style that turned generations of students off the humanities in general. Chace has written extensively on James Joyce - it would have been nice if he could borrowed some of his favorite author's verve and beauty.

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  • I am a huge advocate of English courses and the liberal arts. They have always been my favorite and it is rare that I am not found with a book. However, this trend toward business majors cannot be looked down upon. Business is where our nation is headed. It is much easier to find a post-graduation job with a business degree (or hospitality or accounting or management...shall I go on?) than an English degree. To take it a step further, I am a psychology major and was advised to earn a bachelors of science rather than a bachelors of arts because it is more useful, when applying for jobs or graduate school. So, let's not blame the kids, let's just try to incorporate a little more liberal arts in the business world.

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