The “crisis in the humanities,” much talked about in higher education, seems closely tied to a crisis in humanities PhD programs at our research universities. Doctoral students, we are told, study esoteric subjects that render them unfit to educate undergraduate students. If, that is, these students can find university teaching jobs at the end of their fifth, six, seventh … Well, who’s counting the number of years it takes? That is, if they ever finish, as completion rates are supposedly abysmal.
I do count myself as a believer in the necessity of radical reform to our PhD programs, but not because we must struggle to find the relevance of the humanities to our world. That relevance is there; we need to change our academic programs to prepare the future faculty to take charge of their world.
I am George Justice, a scholar of eighteenth-century British literature who has taught at Marquette University, Louisiana State University, and the University of Missouri, where I served as Dean of the Graduate School. Beginning June 1, 2013, I am Dean of Humanities in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University.