Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Goodbye to all that

The Washington Post reports on a plan to drop thirteen majors at the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point. The majors in question: American studies, art, English (without teacher-certification), French, geography, geoscience, German, history, music literature, philosophy, political science, sociology, and Spanish:

Students and faculty members have reacted with surprise and concern to the news, which is being portrayed by the school’s administration as a path to regain enrollment and provide new opportunities to students. Critics see something else: a waning commitment to liberal arts education and a chance to lay off faculty under new rules that weakened tenure.

The plan to cut the liberal arts and humanities majors . . . is in line with a failed attempt by Republican Gov. Scott Walker in 2015 to secretly change the mission of the respected university system — known as the Wisconsin Idea and embedded in the state code — by removing words that commanded the university to “search for truth” and “improve the human condition” and replacing them with “meet the state’s workforce needs.”
To be added or expanded: majors with what the school calls “clear career pathways,” including captive wildlife and fire science.

Thanks to Slywy for passing on this news.

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March 31: From The Washington Post: “Facing backlash from students, faculty and alumni over a plan to drop thirteen liberal arts majors, leaders of the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point have directed a campus committee to draw up an alternative.” The article reprints a letter from a distinguished graduate who has decided not to leave a portion of his estate to the school:
I began attending UW-SP upon my return from service as an infantryman in Vietnam, back when it was still called WSU-Stevens Point. I was troubled and confused by the war and the politics of the time. The knowledge I gained majoring in philosophy, sociology and political science, departments all scheduled for destruction, allowed me to find perspective. The knowledge and critical thinking skills I learned in the liberal arts aided me in a long and rewarding career helping veterans throughout our state. I’m horrified that you’ve joined the anti-intellectual crowd that currently holds sway in our country.
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[Revised to make clear that while some majors are slated for removal, others are to be added.]

comments: 7

Anonymous said...

I find it interesting the majors they are dropping: 3 foreign languages-probably the most common ones spoken today; political science: always a good stepping stone to understanding how government works if you want to work for the government, advise the government, geography-because we only need to find stuff using GPS; geoscience because climate change and other environmental issues aren't important; history-because we don't need to know how we ended up where we are; sociology -because we don't need to understand how other people think, interact, and behave; and art - because we all know one can't make a living in art.

Sarcasm aside, how is dropping those majors going to lead to a regain in enrollment? Their webpage claims 48 majors but that is now down to 35 as they dropped 13.

Kirsten

Michael Leddy said...

They’re supposed to add or expand others. What it really leads to is the transformation of the public university into a form of vocational education. There’s nothing wrong with vocational education, but a public university should, to my mind, be something else.

Michael Leddy said...

I revised the post to make clear that, as the article says, other majors are to be added. Like you, I was much more attentive to what will be cut than what will be added.

zzi said...

You realize some English departments decided it will no longer require English majors to study Shakespeare.

Michael Leddy said...

Honestly, reports of the death of Shakespeare are greatly exaggerated, often by those who have no interest in fostering study in the humanities to begin with. Questions of value are a lot more complicated than one magical name. Do I think English majors should read Shakespeare? You bet. But also Homer, Sappho, Dickens, Dickinson, Joyce, Faulkner, Morrison, and on and on.

Diane Schirf said...


"Personnel directors know that except for some very limited technical positions, the best hires come with a liberal arts background. They adapt better to an ever-changing world."

I've found this to be true. I can adapt to almost anything. But if you got a degree in marketing 10 years ago, a lot of specifics you were taught are outmoded, and you've had to change your thinking several times since then.

As an aside, I cannot read Joyce. :)

Michael Leddy said...

But Joyce Brothers is one of the great prose stylists of the twentieth century. :)