The Humanities Dilemma, Postmodernism and Critical Thinking
Robert E. Martin
May 9, 2011
This essay considers the sudden and prolonged decline in the humanities and some social science’s share of total degrees conferred since 1967. Current budgetary issues force institutions to consider whether or not these low enrollment programs are obsolete and should be closed. It is hypothesized that while part of the decline can be explained by employment and income prospects, at least part of the problem comes from how these disciplines responded to the new economic realities. Specifically, the rise of postmodernism leads to a “critical thinking paradigm” that is in open conflict with traditional Enlightenment style critical thinking and it promotes habitual, prejudicial, and emotive thinking, when these are the thinking modes employers find least useful. Traditional humanities education must be preserved. It can be preserved by teaching traditional humanities topics, clear and concise communication skills, team work, the ability to listen, and developing a normative critical thinking paradigm that is complementary to Enlightenment style critical thinking. .
Number of Pages in PDF File: 19
Keywords: humanities majors, postmodernism, critical thinking
JEL Classification: A12, A13, A14working papers series
Date posted: May 10, 2011 ; Last revised: November 12, 2011
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