Alas, America’s curiosity about itself is suffering a prolonged bear market. What may work for individual careers poses a collective risk to US democracy.
More on the plummeting U.S. interest in history, and its consequences. Unfortunately, the author, Edward Luce, has to get in a dig at President Trump! But he makes a number of good points, nonetheless.
Indeed, the idea that a de-emphasis on history (and other humanities) in favor of more technical fields “works for individual careers” may itself be a flawed assumption: the author himself notes that
“the biggest culprit is the widespread belief that ‘soft skills’ — such as philosophy and English, which are both in similar decline to history — do not lead to well-paid jobs. But the data do not bear this out. Engineers do better than those who study humanities. But the latter are paid roughly the same as those who graduate in the booming fields of biology and business services.”
But there is a greater cost to society generated by the near-demise of the humanities than simply missed employment opportunities. Luce goes on to comment,
“The demise of strong civics coincides with waning voter turnout, a decline in joining associations, fewer citizen’s initiatives, and other qualities once associated with American vigour. The spread of fake news is often blamed solely on social media… But the ultimate driver is the citizens who believe it.
“There is no scientific metric for gullibility. Nor can we quantitatively prove that civic ignorance imposes a political cost on society. These are questions of judgment. But if America’s origins tell us anything it is that a well-informed citizenry creates a stronger society.”
Indeed! And the reverse, sadly, is also true.