A John G. Kelly Report
John G. Kelly
B.Com., D.PIR., LL.B.,M.S.Sc., M.A. (Jud.Admin.), F.CIS
That’s the ominous title of a recent article by Nathan Heller in the New Yorker magazine. The article reports that 80% of countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation (OECD) have found that enrollment in arts and humanities programs in universities has been in decline over the past decade. In this same period enrollment in the health, medical, natural sciences and engineering has dramatically increased.
There are several reasons for the decline. The most obvious is that this “coming of age” generation in the 16- 21 year -old category isn’t well read. The recent movie highlighting the career of Judy Blume, who was a godmother of sorts to young girls and whose books were avidly read by virtually an entire generation of girls entering puberty, is no longer the must go to source. This is a generation that has been conditioned to scroll social media and I phone for information. The era of curling up in a couch for a long read has ended.
Aspiring college and university students don’t see a link between the humanities and a career other than teaching. All of the talk in the education arena is about science, technology, engineering and math, the S.T.E.M programs, as being the occupational fields with rewarding careers. Interestingly, even though the arts and humanities are in decline as introductory courses there’s an upsurge in students enrolling in statistics as an optional course in their program of study. Sitting in their bedroom playing on their computer has introduced them to the power of “stats” in social media. They know their profile on social media is defined by statistical analysis and they want to find out how it works.
The arts and humanities model of university education was initially defined and shaped by the elite British universities (Oxbridge) which were havens for learning by the elite. We’ve all seen brit box movies of young gentlemen in gowns learning to master the classics and recite poetry while awaiting to take their place in upper class society. North American universities attempted to adopt this model in their formative era but it just didn’t work in a society where everyone was expected to get to it and get to work. Instead of looking at a model that reflected the reality of North American society universities developed learning silos. Think of the english department, history department, political science department and the professional schools such as law and medicine. North American universities have evolved into a series of competitive learning silos that devote too much time arguing with one another.
If, and when they step outside those silos and look at how they can become part of an inclusive learning enclave the arts and humanities are often surprised to discover that students want to incorporate them into their university learning experience. One of the law programs I taught in at Seneca College had a required English course module. The English professor put together a compilation of crime novels. The students learned how to critically read and write by reading books they thoroughly enjoyed because they were linked to their career aspirations.
Canada is a multicultural country. Many children of first- generation immigrants are coached, in some instances to the point of coercion, to get into occupations where they can do financially well. Everyone knows that doctors, lawyers and MBA;s are in the upper strata of the career income bracket. The arts and humanities aren’t associated with high paying prestigious careers.
I founded a very successful professional educational consulting company, Canada Law from Abroad (www.canadalawfromabroad.com) that mentored and counselled students into prestigious top tier law schools in the UK. A significant number of prospective students were children of first -generation immigrants whose parents were determined to get them into law school and that was all there was to it.
I developed an innovative graduate post-diploma program at Seneca College in anti-money laundering compliance to enable recent immigrants with university degrees to become accredited as para -professionals in the financial services field in the banking sector. I wasn’t surprised to find immigrants with undergraduate baccalaureate degrees in the arts and humanities, in many instances from prestigious international universities, enrol in the program rather than an academic M.A. They wanted to access a career with assured above average pay rather than risk get caught up in an arts and humanities silo that wasn’t career linked.
So, should students be mentored and counselled not to enrol in arts and humanities programs. No, but they need to be mentored on how they can link arts and humanities studies to defined professional careers. What universities need to do is to develop a counselling and mentoring course labelled as “Making a Career with a Humanities Major”. In the interim post -secondary counsellors need to take the lead and put a personalized version in place. Want to know how to do it from someone who’s successfully done it? Contact John Kelly at firstname.lastname@example.org
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John G. Kelly
Mentoring & Counselling