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Blaming the humanities fields for their travails recently can seem as sensible as blaming polar bears for not cultivating new crops as the arctic warms. It’s not just that it places the blame for a crisis in the fundamentally wrong place; it’s that it
It’s coming up on a year since I last taught graduate students in the humanities.
Recently, Marymount–a small Catholic university in Arlington, Virginia–has been in the news for a draconian plan to eliminate a number of majors, ostensibly to better meet student demand. I recently learned the university leadership has been circulating one of my charts to justify the decision, so I thought I’d chime in on the context a bit. My understanding of the situation, primarily informed by the coverage in ARLNow, is this seems like bad plan,
I attended the American Historical Association’s conference last week, possibly for the last time since I’ve given up history professorin. Since then, the collapse of the hiring prospects in history has been on my mind more. See Erin Bartram, Kathryn Otrofsky and Daniel Bessner on the way that this AHA was haunted by a sense of terminal decline in the history profession. I was motivated to look a bit at something I’ve thought about several times over the years: what happens to people after receiving a PhD in history?
I last looked at the H-Net job numbers about a month ago.
Since then, the news isn’t exactly good, but it’s also probably as good as anyone could expect. For most of September and October, history jobs were at about 25% of their average for the 2010s; this was slightly worse than we’re seeing in the approximate numbers in–for instance–science jobs, where new job openings are at about 30% of their normal levels (Thanks to Dylan Ruediger at the AHA for passing along that link.)
Out of a train-wreck curiosity about what’s been happening to the historical profession, I’ve been watching the numbers on tenure-track hiring as posted on H-Net, one of the major venues for listing history jobs.
[Update 10-2: switching to US and Canada only. An earlier version of this included other countries, even though I said it didn’t.]
I wrote this year’s report on history majors for the American Historical Association’s magazine, Perspectives on History; it takes a medium term view of at the significant hit the history major has taken since the 2008 financial crisis. You can read it here.
I have a new article in the Atlantic about declining numbers for humanities majors.
I put up a new post at Sapping Attention about . In short, it’s been bad enough to make me recant earlier statements of mine about the long-term health of the humanities discipline.