National Collegiate Honors Council


Date of this Version

Spring 2018


Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council 19:1 (Spring/Summer 2018), pp155-170.


© Copyright 2018 by the National Collegiate Honors Council.


Honors educators frequently engage in conversations about the decline of interest in and funding for the liberal arts and humanities. Larry Andrews’s essay “The Humanities are Dead! Long Live the Humanities!” is one of several that contributes to a metanarrative about the liberal arts and humanities, playing out along the following lines: workforce-minded politicians, short-sighted university administrators, STEM-related programs, and market-driven students no longer understand the true value of the liberal arts and humanities because they cannot be easily measured in dollars and cents; consequently, higher education today typically narrows students’ perspectives, facilitates short-term and uncritical thinking, and fails to adequately enable student growth and development—that is, growth and development of the fully formed person, of the well-rounded individual, and of the caring soul. (For other articles that tie honors education to this narrative, see Blaich and Ditzler; Dooley; Martino; Salas; and Wintrol.)

This familiar narrative offers some truths, no doubt, but its simplicity is troubling. It quickly papers over many complexities related both to workplaces and to the liberal arts and humanities, and, followed to its logical conclusion, it becomes less a narrative about education and more a narrative about limits, about who and what provide limits as opposed to who and what provide freedoms, about who and what open minds and who and what close them. Those in higher education who focus too much on careers, as this narrative goes, are in the business of setting limits on what students receive from a college education, which stunts their personal, professional, and intellectual growth; conversely, proponents of the liberal arts and humanities are interested in developing fully formed minds, expanding horizons, and unshackling students from career-based chains that keep them from becoming critical thinkers, strong and empathetic communicators, and seekers of truth.