Judith Brett – Emeritus Professor of Politics at La Trobe University – has an op-ed in The Age today. She is singing the praises of humanities degrees and also putting the boot into the Coalition.
She is not wrong in emphasising the value of a humanities education. But … as she points out – Australian universities are failing in that regard.
Across the country, many of Australia’s humanities and social science departments are imploding: minimal language teaching; faculties without philosophy; English departments with no subject on Shakespeare, let alone Australian literature; visual art departments studying no art history prior to 1900; politics departments with nothing on America and barely anything on Australia; and so on.
I think that is an accurate description. Who is to blame for this sorry mess. This is where we disagree – the universities themselves are to blame. Who does Judith Brett blame?
The hostility of the Coalition to the humanities is deep-seated. As one senior university manager told me, ‘‘Every interaction I have with Canberra turns into a diatribe about Marxist feminist identity theorists crushing academic freedom.’’
This obsession with the culture wars and identity politics is distracting the Coalition and its right-wing supporters from the main story. It is not identity politics but the shrinking of humanities and social science faculties and curriculum across the country that is the biggest threat to our young people’s education, preventing them from studying the cultural riches of the past and knowing much about world history.
It is not Coalition hostility that has led to the decline in Humanities education – the decline in Humanities education and the rise of identity politics and various forms of ‘critical theory’ is what has given rise to that hostility.