Although their exodus represents more of a long-term solution to the problem of a predominantly doctrinaire liberal arts curriculum, available evidence indicates that students are moving away from politically correct humanities majors and courses towards classes that offer more educational substance.
Last year, we reported that in one semester at Duke, two political science professors taught more students in two courses than the entire English and History faculty combined in all of their catalogue offerings. And one of the popular political scientists is as identifiably conservative as the humanities division at the home of the Blue Devils is markedly liberal.
“In 1968, English majors were 7.59 percent of those graduating with bachelor’s degrees, but by 1995 that figure was down to 4.47 percent,” retired Professor John M. Ellis [pictured] said in an interview in The Navigator magazine. “The decline in foreign languages was even greater in percentage terms, from 2.77 to 1.06.”
“History suffered a percentage decline comparable to that of foreign languages.”
Ellis, who taught at the University of California at Santa Cruz, now heads the Association of Literary Scholars and Critics. The Navigator is published by The Objectivist Center.
“There can be no doubt that the ruling orthodoxy in the humanities is the cause of the current slump in humanities enrolments,” Ellis, who edits the publication Heterodoxy, says. “Incidentally, enrolments in philosophy—the humanities field least affected by political correctness—have remained relatively stable.”
Ellis dismisses the scant economic rewards of humanities as a profession and historical trends towards such fields of study in a flush economy as reasons for the shift away from those academic disciplines. Other majors promised greater economic rewards when humanities enrolments were higher and lower.
As well, history shows more students expressing enthusiasm for the humanities in times of economic growth. Nonetheless, during the recent recovery, students have continued their seemingly inexorable move away from such liberal arts courses.
Rather, Ellis puts the problem down to the influence of politically correct professors and their followers, whom he calls “alienated insiders” and “resentful outsiders.” “The alienated intellectuals prey on them, exploit their disorientation and are as a result suddenly leaders of greatly increased numbers of troops,” Ellis said of the “outsiders.”
Ellis served as dean of the Graduate division at UC Santa Cruz. He retired in 1994 after teaching at the university for three decades.
Malcolm A. Kline is the executive director of Accuracy in Academia.