The Humanities Dilemma, Postmodernism and Critical Thinking

19 Pages Posted: 10 May 2011 Last revised: 12 Nov 2011

Date Written: 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. .

Keywords: humanities majors, postmodernism, critical thinking

JEL Classification: A12, A13, A14

Suggested Citation

Martin, Robert E., The Humanities Dilemma, Postmodernism and Critical Thinking (May 9, 2011). Available at SSRN: or

Robert E. Martin (Contact Author)

Centre College ( email )

600 West Walnut Street
Danville, KY 40422
United States

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