Record: Hoachlander, G. (2014). Integrating & STEM. Educational Leadership, 72(4), 74-78.
Summary: In this article Gary Hoachlander outlines a new system to better integrate STEM subjects into education called “Linked Learning.” Hoachlander begins by summarizing the recent developments of Common Core’s adoption and STEM advocacy by numerous politicians. He claims while these are nice developments they don’t go near far enough. The chief Continue reading
Record: Ferrero, D. (2011). Humanities- Why the Hard Sell? What Students Need to Learn, 68(6), 22-26. doi:March 2011
Summary: In this article David J. Ferrero discusses the place of the humanities in both modern educational policy and historic ideals of education. He opens with an anecdote about a PBS mini-series featuring Dr. Michael Sandel lecturing on tough moral questions. Ferrero compares how the airing of this TV series means to create reflective citizens with how education in the humanities can help create reflective students. Continue reading
Record: Cavanagh, Clare. ““Non-strategic” Eastern Europe and the Fate of the Humanities.” East European Politics & Societies 29, no. 1 (February 2015): 3-9. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed April 21, 2015).
Summary: This article was written by a Polish professor, Clare Cavanagh, at Northwestern University discussing the state of the humanities in American public schools and universities. The author spends quite a bit of time analyzing the topic in regards to Eastern European literary studies while presenting a defense of the humanities in general later in the article.
Cavanagh begins with a section subtitled “The State of the Art.” True to its title, this area analyzes where the humanities currently stand both in public and higher education. She opens by revealing the shaky status of her department at her university and broadens that to the status of the liberal arts at large. She gives as evidence for her claims a conversation between former Secretary of Education William Bennett and North Carolina Governor Pat McRory. The subject was McRory’s desire to avoid subsidizing the humanities for incoming university students. She then brings up Common Core at the public school level. Her view is it’s designed to “nip humanities tendencies in the bud” through its pushing out of books that aren’t nonfiction. Cavanagh then brings it back to her own university. She reveals how classes involving Eastern Europe studies are being undercut. The administrative explanation she says she was given was that those courses were no longer “strategic” after the Cold War. The author polishes off the section with a lament on how politics has crept so far into humanities education.
The next section is labelled “Who is to Blame.” It nods to the burden of the humanities of showing how the increased expense of a degree can still provide employment opportunities. In the face of the economic inefficiencies of liberal arts, Cavanagh turns to their “intrinsic value.” Immediately after saying it, she admits to the difficulty of defending such a position. Her solution is more of an aesthetic evaluation at least in regards to literature. She makes this suggestion and proceeds to qualify it with every postmodern argument that the worth or value of a book is transient. Still, she holds fast to the notion that good writing can be its own reward and students will continue to find value in the study of the humanities.
Appraisal: Cavanagh by and large merely scratches the surface of the humanities situation in the U.S. Her source evidence is scanty, relying almost exclusively on comments from one or two state governors and her own personal experience. In regards to her experience, Cavanagh occasionally tries to generalize what she’s observed to educational institutions across the country. Doing this without sufficient sources is insufficient to validate her claims. The one point she did make that adds a new dimension to the conversation is her discussion on the humanities being used as political tools. It is an interesting perspective to consider when one views how the humanities have declined in the post-Cold War era. However, what was most surprising was her lack of defense of the humanities beyond a few vague statements of “intrinsic value.”