…I’m a fan of the humanities. And of course you can claim that I have a self-serving bias going on when I say as much. But allow me to provide a statement on behalf of the humanities nonetheless:
It’s not just cutting humanities that I see as cause for alarm, but privileging a certain type of science education over the work of the humanities. “Scientific literacy” pops up in op-eds off and on, and you see liberal arts colleges starting initiatives to strengthen students’ training in science. But scientific literacy usually gets defined in these discussions as training in the methods and “facts” of the sciences. There’s nothing wrong with that type of study, but it’s incomplete if our goal is scientific literacy. True scientific literacy has to come from learning to look at the sciences from a humanistic and social-scientific perspective as well, and to be able to contextualize and critically evaluate the scientific data reported in the media. It’s amazing how quickly that data can become part of our identities. I notice this all the time with, for instance, evolutionary psychology, which certainly has a strong popular presence. Students will come into my class and refer to whichever is the latest evolutionary psychology study that proves that gender differences are fundamental, or that we humans all have certain evolved behaviors that we can’t fight with laws and social apparatus. They don’t necessarily know that they can and should critically evaluate such studies before deciding whether or not to use them to determine what they believe about themselves and how to conduct themselves.