Where I've Been
"During the last four decades, a well-publicized shift in what undergraduate students prefer to study has taken place in American higher education. The number of young men and women majoring in English has dropped dramatically; the same is true of philosophy, foreign languages, art history, and kindred fields, including history. As someone who has taught in four university English departments over the last 40 years, I am dismayed by this shift, as are my colleagues here and there across the land. And because it is probably irreversible, it is important to attempt to sort out the reasons--the many reasons--for what has happened. --William M. Chace, The American Scholar"
"Irriversible"? Why? Just because the level has dropped dramatically does not mean that it won't restore itself. I hardly think that the English major will drop off of the face of the planet. I believe that the English major, like everything in the American mindset, is a part of the economy. It's an investment, like all other majors.
Of course, I've seen a shift, as well. It's not hard to sort out the reasons for this particular shift... growing competition with China and others; fast-paced lifestyle; Man vs. Machine. It's indirectly our fault. If we weren't so worried about being the fastest and the best, this wouldn't have happened. However, there is an inevitability about society's progression. We are constantly moving forward because we are blesssed with the capacity to do so. This bless is evidently a curse- the same capacity with which we have created all these amazing machines has also driven us further away from the outlets that fully explain our human condition to us. The appealing nature of Literature (with a capital "L") and history is that they show us where we've been and where we should go. For instance, anyone who's read the John Henry story can attest that the "wonderful" progression of machines will soon be our downfall.
So, do I believe that there has been a change? Yes. Do I believe that SOME of the damage is irreversible? You could say that... We're always going to want to move forward faster than our feet can carry us (that's what hyper speed cars are for). But eventually, all of that won't matter. Eventually, we're going to want to get back to our roots (that ALWAYS happens. Not for everyone, but for most). Therefore, the English major is not going to disappear, nor are history and philosophy. While we can not fix what happened in the past, we can try to work with the future- use technology to our advantage while teaching the Humanities (funny name, right). This way, while we pump out our future scientists and business people, they can automatically know where they're going because they'll know where they've been.