• Tertiary enrollments for Foreign Languages and English, the growth of social sciences language-studies and non-language-centered humanities, and the "Language-Arts continuum"

    Piers Armstrong (see profile)
    Language enrollments and disciplinary trends
    Language and languages, Social sciences, Music, Arts
    Item Type:
    Conference paper
    Conf. Title:
    117th Pacific Ancient and Modern Language Association (PAMLA) Conference
    Conf. Org.:
    Pacific Ancient and Modern Language Association (PAMLA)
    Conf. Loc.:
    San Diego, CA
    Conf. Date:
    Nov. 14-17, 2019
    language-centered humanities, non-language-centered humanities, language-centered social sciences, Foreign languages, Humanities metrics
    Permanent URL:
    This paper first reports on a survey of U.S. government statistics on college enrollments in language-centered humanities courses (foreign languages [FL] and English) and correlated awarded degrees. It traces total enrollments and awarded degrees over time, and compares the growth/decline of specific foreign languages. It then explores the declining proportion, among all awarded degrees, of those in FL, those in English, and those in FL and English combined, and notes a fairly consistent correlation over time of the respective numbers of FL in relation to English, despite the broader shifts and other variegation. The paper also explores data for two adjacent fields: (i) non language-centric humanities, notably music and art; (ii) language-centric fields outside the humanities, notably Communication. Both these domains have grown proportional to all fields, and overwhelmingly in proportion to FL and English. The paper concludes that the widespread general notion of the "decline of the humanities" is imprecise to the point of being misleading. While the language-centered humanities present a grave long-term decline, the humanities are better understood as a terrain of divergent specific fortunes. Separately, language study has shifted – numerically if not conceptually – from being humanities-centered to social sciences dominated. The paper concludes with a speculative interpretation of the above. The idea of a language-arts continuum, widely used in elementary and secondary education, is presented as possibly useful to characterize a long-term process whereby the humanities, and aesthetics, retain a certain prestige in the educational mission, but traditional language disciplines are displaced, and lose their former hierarchical dominance in a new continuum of expressive modes which articulate subjectivity. The tertiary "language-arts continuum" conceptualization is posited but not further developed.
    Last Updated:
    3 years ago
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