October 06, 2015

Here's why Japanese universities are shutting down liberal arts departments

Denyse O'LearyRebel Blogger

According to Smithsonian Magazine, "It’s a move that’s sending 'shivers down academic spines' worldwide.'

Says Smithsonian:

Most higher education institutions offer a wide range of topics, from engineering and science to literature, history and sociology have long been a backbone of. But, as Alex Dean reports for The Guardian, that is changing in Japan as over 50 universities reduce or eliminate their humanities and social sciences departments entirely.

The education minister wants to convert them “to serve areas that better meet society’s needs,” such as training for jobs.

Historian Erin Blakemore notes that the move has “horrified some academics,” including some in the sciences.

It would be interesting to know if all the recent scandals in social sciences have played a role in minimizing their apparent value.

A critical problem is that the overwhelming progressive bias of the field makes it easy to perpetrate frauds and hoaxes by playing to unquestioned core beliefs.

As noted earlier, the clickbait articles from social psych, seized on by pop science writers, too often turn out to be fraudulent (um, yeah, right?). Many exhibit one or more features of this "flyover country is racist" theme.

A significant number of retracted studies allegedly demonstrate these types of beliefs as facts, conveniently packaged to soothe the public as “counterintuitive.”

What rubbish. The “flyover country is racist” (etc.) theme is not counterintuitive to the people who go into social psychology, as claimed after a string of scandals.

It is one of their core beliefs.

Yet, “Whether this bias in what people find interesting is reasonable is a topic for another day,” we are told. Actually, it is probably the only fact of long term public importance.

As for accommodation of the field’s general philosophy, sorry, the ship has sailed. The controversies around peer reviewed fraud testify to the heart of the problem.

See, for example, “New social sciences scandal: Oft-cited paper is complete rubbish —again?”

There was no way of distinguishing this Sokal hoax from the real thing, apparently.

("Sokal hoax"? Deliberately getting rubbish published in peer-reviewed humanities journals, in order to demonstrate the vacuity of the field. The phrase commemorates physicist Alan Sokal, a successful perpetrator, but by no means the only one...)

While many seek to correct the problems, we are cautioned at Scientific American not to think that adding conservative voices would help; they want to subtract out bias instead.

That’s laughable, of course. If they won’t ensure a variety of voices, it is simply impossible to have balance, and the scandals will continue.

Maybe the Japanese don’t have time, money, or attention for what often seems like a giant Sokal hoax.


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commented 2015-10-10 17:42:18 -0400
So what’s wrong with a country deciding that its post-secondary institutions should focus on facts/science (trades, engineering, scientific/medical fields), where there is a greater opportunity for employment? Certainly, there will still be a number of lawyers and bureaucrats necessary, but what good is a History degree, if one cannot find a job teaching? (Never mind the “advanced basketweaving” equivalents that many “liberal arts” schools seem to grant…)
commented 2015-10-09 20:03:49 -0400
Dave Bainard…..Much much much more importantly than that…..what is the furture of “journalists”…who I would not dare to name because they would sue at the very invokation of their name….and therefore have relieved me of the burden and jepordary of even having to name them….for they are already indeed notorious….but when I read that the lawyer who is our nemesis…..prior to going to law school……“majored at Queens in drama”….at first I thought this was a cursory slander…then I found out it was absolutely true……:-)
commented 2015-10-08 22:53:36 -0400
Maybe the Japanese can’t see any future for drama teachers.
commented 2015-10-08 15:16:03 -0400
Andrew Stephenson, the problems with the humanities, especially with social sciences (which bid fair to be called sciences) are well recognized, and it is only reasonable to wonder whether they played a role in the decision. Point taken about demographics, but Japan does not seem to feel the same way about the STEM subjects. Incidentally, economics is in a pickle too: http://www.blazingcatfur.ca/2015/10/08/economics-journal-studies-cannot-be-replicated/
commented 2015-10-07 22:01:00 -0400
Very interesting! I believe you’ve got something there!
commented 2015-10-07 21:14:20 -0400
Mr Stephenson…..I am old….I am old ….I shall wear my trousers rolled…

School and report cards are far behind me…..my sleep patterns are like that of many retired seniors…..I will be up now for a while.

I hope you are up as well….

Let us have meaningful discussion of this matter….it has been one of particular interest to me ever since I graduated…..it’s a long story…..I did OK compared to many people….but that says nothing for the degree…..and the stats on that matter are misleading…if you had the go-get-um to get the degree….then you had the motivation to get a job to service your student loan.

Sir…I have a business administration degree…..I am now 65 years old……I worked in the government for 26 years…..I got screwed over by feminist “career management”……I can now honestly say that I did not glean one dollar’s worth of economic benefit from that degree….

I once threatened to burn that degree as an act of protest at my alma mater’s anti male policy and agenda….and got barred from the campus to perform that ritual of protest.

Mr Stephenson…..I know that the Liberal Party is composed largely of a leisure class hydroponically grown in academia.

You want to expand the bureaucracy I know well because I worked in it….because the recipients of thes degrees al usually fit for nothing else…..I among others ….are fedup with them picking our noses.

If you came here to make some sort of guilt and shame manipulation……..bring it on.
commented 2015-10-07 20:40:20 -0400
@andrew Srephenson…….It took decades of me and the likeminded to force the issue…..university enrollment brochures should contain the warning and disclaimer “this debt based investment is of a highly speculative nature”……previously all manner of snake oil was promissed or implied .
commented 2015-10-07 11:37:43 -0400
@drew, read the article. It’s pretty clear that there is grave dancing going on
For the most part, the fine arts programs are actually profitable to run, and the funds diverted towards science programs. The decline in arts programs has hurt science program funding because of the nature of university funding.

There are plenty of unemployed science graduates as well. Youth unemployment is as much due to Canada’s atrociously bad economic development as educational misallocation. Most of this education is not actually needed at all, but it’s become a bit of an arms race for the scarce jobs that do exist.
commented 2015-10-07 02:48:36 -0400
Nice to see that there’s at least one country in this world that is not afraid to acknowledge the uselessness of a liberal arts degree. Worst case scenario, you don’t have a bunch of unemployed graduates in student debt because they picked up a sociology degree.
commented 2015-10-07 01:22:31 -0400
Andrew Stephenson who is dancing on the grave of an education system? Liberal arts is hardly needed or worth the money put into it, education will survive without liberal arts. And many hate the arts because they are forced to pay for the useless bums.
commented 2015-10-06 17:11:31 -0400
There is no reason why a liberal arts undergraduate degree should cost one penny more than a high school education….exactly the same elements are required.

There is no reason why this could not be offered in old high school buildings which no longer have enough students.

There is no reason why except…..the greedy administrations of universities just won’t have it. It is the trappings of prestige and the continual expansion of buildings and administration that load students with needless debt.
commented 2015-10-06 16:10:11 -0400
So basically Japan is taking action on what everybody already knows, liberal arts programs are at best an easy time slot filler with no practical value for students and at their worst a financial drain on the university and by extension the general public. Full marks to Japan for ridding themselves of a needless, valueless burden
commented 2015-10-06 15:23:43 -0400
You have turned what is a simple economic matter – Japanese demographics stink, there are few youth and fewer opportunities so arts programs are heavily undersubscribed – into what appears to be dancing on the grave of an education system, merely because you disagree with some of the conclusions the general arts community (not even necessarily the Japanese one) has put forth. Is there any proof that Japanese “Liberal Arts” programs are even particularly “liberal” given the deeply traditional nature of Japanese culture?

The same trend is true in Canada. In large parts of the country, domestic enrollment peaked a number of years ago due to declining numbers of youth and opportunity for arts graduates, and the arts programs have borne the brunt of declining enrollment (while the international students that have made up the difference – yes, Canada is an educational powerhouse despite cutbacks – have generally gone towards applied fields) i suppose that you could turn THAT into hyperpartisan drivel too. The Rebel is seemingly incapable of examining issues without going down that road.