Would you be surprised to learn that the bright, well prepared, highly-motivated students who study a humanities subject at Oxford find their way in the world? It seems a no-brainer, but apparently the cultural climate in then UK demands proof that “… Humanities higher education is not a disadvantage for graduates in a highly competitive economy. Employers, for example in financial and legal sectors, drew steadily on all five main Humanities degree subjects over the whole period [of this study]. The responsiveness of Humanities graduates to emerging economic trends suggests that the literate, critical, and communication skills that have long been the core of Humanities-based higher education continue to stand graduates very well”.
Does this surprise anyone? Or does anyone feel amazed to learn that “Humanities-based higher education” makes a substantial contribution to the British economy, particularly in light of the fact that a many B.A. Oxon.s go into finance, law, or the media ?
If this seems surprising, then you will need to wade through an elaborate study based on 11,000 Oxford graduates from 1960 – 1989. It’s all in Humanities Graduates and the British Economy: The Hidden Impact: http://www.torch.ox.ac.uk/sites/torch/files/publications/Humanities%20Graduates%20and%20the%20British%20Economy%20-%20University%20of%20Oxford_0.pdf
The surprise, it seems to me, is that this has to be demonstrated with detailed statistics and reports of extensive interviews, and that the question of career satisfaction is never incisively explored. An uncomprehending public in the UK seems to want to be assured that these humanisticly trained Oxonians actually got a job. On this side of the Atlantic we might not be so discreet. Our British friends didn't ask the crass question "How much do you get paid?" A comparable study done over here would probably probe into the pocket book.
Maybe that would be good. That is what such studies are really asking, I suspect. Ot's what the age demanded. By putting that question squarely, the underlying values of the project would be easier to recognize -- What matters is money. Full Stop. That's the assumption that has to be dragged into the light and challenged.
How to do that I am not sure. But, if there were among those 11,000 a quixotic lover of poetry, ill paid, no doubt -- would we totally despise him if he wrote:
For three years, out of key with his time,
He strove to resuscitate the dead art
Of poetry; to maintain "the sublime"
In the old sense. Wrong from the start !
No, hardly, but, seeing he had been born
In a half savage country, out of date;
Bent resolutely on wringing lilies from the acorn;
Thanks to Tony Grafton for calling the report to my reluctant attention, and thereby bringing me back to a deliciously brilliant poem by Ezra Pound.