Here’s a modest proposal for reforming higher education in the humanities and creating a generation of knowledge workers prepared not only to teach, research, and communicate in 21st-century modes, but to govern 21st-century institutions.
First, kill all the grad-level methods courses.
Kill them, that is, to clear room for something more highly evolved — or simply more fruitful — to take their place. Think: asteroids clobbering dinosaurs. Choking weeds ripped from vegetable gardens. The fuzzy little nothings and spindly cultivars in this scenario, squinting cautious eyes or uncurling new leaves into the light, are:
- those research methodologies and corpora (often but not exclusively gathered under the banner of the “digital humanities”) that address hitherto unanswerable questions about history, the arts, and the human condition;
- and the new-model scholarly communications platforms we can already recognize as promising replacements to our slow and moribund systems for credentialing and publishing humanities scholarship and archiving the cultural record on which it is based.
What do these critters need to grow up? The same thing our colleges and universities so desperately need: a generation of faculty and alternative-academic scholar-practitioners who have been trained to work in interdisciplinary contexts and who can not only take advantage of computational approaches to their own research, but who have been instilled with enough of a can-do, maker’s ethos that they feel empowered to build and re-build the systems in which they and future students will operate.