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By Adrian Wooldridge

14 Mar 2023 · 7 min read

Editor's Note

The world's most pioneering business leaders are increasingly confronting big ethical questions. The humanities—not accounting—is what will prepare them, argues Bloomberg's Adrian Wooldridge.

Liberal arts students are in danger of joining the one quarter of species that may be extinct by the end of this century. In the United States, the number of students taking English or history at college has fallen by a third over the past decade. Across the 38 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, four-fifths report that humanities enrollment is falling. From a purely economic point of view, getting a PhD in the humanities these days is only marginally more sensible than taking up smoking crack.

A recent New Yorker article, Nathan Heller's "The End of the English Major," is replete with depressing quotes from teachers and students in the liberal arts. "We feel we're on the Titanic," a senior professor in the Harvard English department said. (In 2022, only 7% of Harvard freshmen planned to major in the humanities compared with nearly 30% in the 1970s.) "I think that the problem with the humanities is you can feel like you're not really going anywhere, and that's very scary," a student lamented.

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