Notebook: (1) Who Killed the Humanities?
by Ann Kjellberg, editor
A few weeks ago there was a much-referred to essay by Nathan Heller in The New Yorker about “the end of the humanities” that I avoided, out of a distaste for the “end of” genre. But this week I was on a long flight and started to run down the saved article list until I found myself, depressingly, there, at the end. I girded myself for posthumousness and proceeded. Much of it was to be expected—the distractions of the internet; the croesian payoffs from tech. Yet the statistics were stark. Since the economic collapse (or arrival of the iPhone?) in 2008, the numbers of humanities majors in American higher education had, by various measures, very roughly halved. (Former historian and data scientist Ben Schmidt challenged Nathan Heller’s statistics on Twitter, and made reference to his own much more precise and convincing 2018 article on the subject in The Atlantic. Ben Schmidt, however, also found study of the humanities to have shown precipitous and unprecedented decline in the last fifteen years.)