The Humanities Are Alive


Jeremy C. Young, an assistant professor of history at Dixie State University, does a nice of job entering the larger conversation about the fate of the humanities in American life.

Here is a taste of his recent piece at History News Network:

The real divide isn’t between liberals and conservatives, but between those who view the humanities as dead and those who realize they are very much alive. Our role as advocates, then, is to argue for the humanities as living, breathing disciplines teeming with new ideas, and to tie the creation of those ideas to the perpetuation of our role in the academy. We must demonstrate to the public that humanities scholars are idea generators and knowledge creators, detectives and imagineers – the modern equivalents of the great historical thinkers so many revere.  We conduct original research on important topics and create new, sophisticated analyses that enhance existing knowledge.  We disseminate our ideas by publishing them in books and articles, by publicizing them in the popular press, and by teaching them to generations of students. Our job, first and foremost, is to make sure that the intellectual landscape of the twenty-first century is as fresh and relevant as were those of the twentieth and the nineteenth. 

If you want more Federalists and more Platos, we must argue – if you want more Shakespeares and more Angelous – you need us and our work.  If you disagree with our interpretations, come pit your ideas against ours in a rigorous scholarly setting; learn from us, and we’ll learn from you.  But don’t make it harder for us to create knowledge by cutting tenure lines and increasing course loads.  If you give us less time to generate new ideas, we will generate fewer of them; if you employ fewer of us, there will be fewer of us to create knowledge.  Our contributions can’t be replaced by amateurs who lack the disciplinary training we’ve acquired, or by think tanks which lack the scholarly rigor we embrace, or by underpaid, overworked adjuncts who lack the time, security, and support we enjoy.  If you value humanistic ideas – and the biography of John Adams on your nightstand, the pocket Constitution in your desk, and the capitalist philosophy of your business clearly indicate that you do – we in the academy need your help, so that we may continue to refresh and renew the disciplines in which we all believe.

Read the entire piece here.

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