October 3, 2006

Bad news for colleges; good news for humanities teachers

Posted in Higher Education, Uncategorized at 3:14 pm by ndsmith

Inside Higher Ed is reporting today on a new survey released by an independent business group, The Conference Board, which finds that 431 HR representatives of companies hiring college graduates rate all college graduates–i.e., four-year as well as community college–poorly in the areas of Written Communication, Writting in English and Leadership. In fact, the only area in which all college graduates were rated as “excellent” by a majority of HR representatives was application of information technology.

This is a slap on the wrist of colleges, especially four-year liberal arts colleges. But it is an opportunity for those of us teaching in the humanities to demonstrate that our place in higher education is integral and ought to be reinforced. There is no better place to learn good writing skills than in History, Philosophy, Litterature, Theology or Classics courses. These courses are often begrudgingly included in the “core” curriculum for liberal arts colleges, but their faculty, financial support and status within the University has consistently been undermined: they are often seen as refuges for neo-marxist, feminist, queer-theoretical or postmodern nonsense and are consistently contrasted with those disciplines that fit more easily into the framework of modern technical sciences. This new report suggests that our emphasis on learning science and technology has done its job; now we need to return to the classical skills of reading and writing that can be taught so well in the humanities.

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4 Comments »

  1. Doug Smith said,

    I agree wholeheartedly with your insights of today. As one who hires new graduates on a regular basis, the one deficiency that jumps out is the inability of the new graduate to write and speak. We generally hire engineers who have received even less instruction in the humanities than the average college graduate, but who nonetheless require excellent written and oral communication skills.

    The Conference Board is one of the most widely recognized and respected authorities in the HR area and whose view would be supported by those in our industry.

  2. Joanna Smith said,

    Since we’re on this topic…It should be noted that the word “writing” is spelled with only one “t.”

    Looks like we get a lesson in irony today too!

  3. ndsmith said,

    Ooops! Thought I caught all of those typos. Eggg on my face. 🙂

  4. John O'Connor said,

    Good point. I agree with the need.

    Supposing this is actually recognized by colleges and a renewed emphasis is placed on the humanities, is there any reason to think these teaching needs won’t be filled by adjuncts? That is, can we hope for the creation of anything more than dead-end zero-benefit jobs?


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