Liberal Arts, Interdisciplinarity, Humanities, Sciences


Where do the liberal arts stand today? A recent article in the NY Times said the following:

Add to that the plentiful supply of jobs in the growing health care industry, and the result is that health science programs have been taking off not only at Colorado, Stony Brook and Marquette but also at more than a half-dozen other universities across the country, even as disciplines like philosophy, religious studies, humanities and Spanish stagnate or decline on the same campuses.

This is a fairly typical view of the liberal arts, that they are languishing in comparison with more "employable" disciplines or pursuits. And empirically, this might be true, although one would have to adjust a study for factors such as the amount of support and promotion these various disciplines get and other factors. In other words, often very little money is put into supporting the disciplines commonly associated with the liberal arts.


But we may have something else going on. It might be that some of the "employable" disciplines might accomplish what the liberal arts historically accomplished. In fact, I don't think that's the case, but some would argue that education or health care (for instance) teach the tools of basic learning along with job or professional skills. One might also argue that the university in general has taken on the role of the liberal arts through the GEP.