Last weekend I was talking with my friend Jon Stokes who is the Deputy Editor of Ars Technica. We were discussing the state of the humanities (in relation to “digital humanities“) when we both began to bemoan their lack of significance in modern society. As many are aware it is the Department of Art or Classics or Foreign Languages or Philosophy or Religion which are often hit the hardest when the funds disappear. In part, I think this is because it is the technology, science, and other similar departments that eventually create the type of student who creates capital for a society whereas reading Plato doesn’t have much of a monetary ROI.

Yet a society without the humanities is troublesome. I don’t want to sound too Sci-Fi, but it is Matrixish to think of a world where we don’t care if our students think about the ascetic, or philosophical, or religious implications of decisions made on the behalf of society. We need more critical thinks (especially now more than ever) and not less who are merely part of the machine.

I wish I could have captured Jon’s words but he said something to the extent that it is those who study humanities that often have the critical eye toward society. He said it so well. Basically, it is all too easy for those who care only about the almighty dollar to cut funding to departments that in their understanding merely create a bunch of rebellious hippies. If you are a wealthy alumni who pours funds back into your institution and some of the professors and students who are humanities majors seem to be critical of your business practices it is not surprising that you wouldn’t want your money to go to them.

I wonder what the future holds for the humanities? What changes could we see in the future in how these subjects are taught? How should these subjects be mediated if colleges and universities do not find them worth the cost of operation? Thoughts?