US: Higher Education



Historian Robert Whealey says: To this general critique of higher education, we should add the lack of History.  When I took my BA in 1952, U.S. and European History (2 years) were required by most humanities  and social science departments.  Some was required to even get the BA or BS in anything. As a historian,I blame not math and not area studies.  I blame the over rated psychological courses.  Psychology and Political Science together in some cases ,have become studies in how to manipulate other BA students with words. Our journalists are a sorry lot today.  Where is today's Walter Lippmanm? I'm a fan of George Orwell.

RH: This is a tricky problem since each faculty member thinks his subject is most important. The great shift in higher education is from the study of the past to that of the present. This is natural, since we have to live in the present. How far History has suffered I do not know.   At Stanford, Western Civilization, run by the History Department, was replaced by a wide variety of courses from many departments, including history.  One cannot blame area studies, which were disgracefully destroyed by competing programs. Psychology, Political Science Science and Economics are immensely important subjects. It is true that psychology is often taken by students to find out more about themselves (not a bad thing), and economics to get a good job (understandable). Political Science should make students better citizens.  There are many good journalists.

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Historian Robert Whealey said: To this general critique of higher education, we should add the lack of History.  When I took my BA in 1952, U.S. and European History (2 years) were required by most humanities  and social science departments. I said: This is a tricky problem since each faculty member thinks his subject is most important. Gebe Franklin comments: This debate has to be one of the oldest in the academy.  I first came across it in the writing of C P Snow on the Two Cultures. For what it's worth, from my corner it has always seemed that flow between the cultures was very unbalanced in favor of Scientists knowing much more about Humanities than Humanists know (or care!) about Science and Technology. A scientist cannot deny his or her humanity, but a humanist seems to get along very well with only the most superficial knowledge of the physical world in which he or she exists. I once heard I I Rabi of the Columbia Physics Department say something to the effect that he greatly enjoyed reading and thinking about the humanities but could not imagine spending his professional career on such topics when so many exciting things were going on in physics.


Ronald Hilton 2004

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last updated: February 28, 2005