The problem facing the humanities, in my view, isn’t just about the humanities. It’s about the liberal arts generally, including math, science, and economics. These form three-fourths of the so-called STEM (science, technology, economics, math) subjects, but if the goal of an education is simply economic advancement and technological power, those disciplines, just like the humanities, will be—and to some degree already are—subordinated to future employment and technological progress. Why shouldn’t educational institutions predominately offer classes like Business Calculus and Algebra for Nurses? Why should anyone but hobbyists and the occasional specialist take courses in astronomy, human evolution, or economic history? So, what good, if any, is the study of the liberal arts, particularly subjects like philosophy? Why, in short, should plumbers study Plato?
I tell people all the time that there are just too many people in college who don’t belong there. But that’s because of the cost. Everyone deserves the opportunity to learn how to think. Not everyone needs it, or wants it, but you shouldn’t have to mortgage your future to try.