The planned obsolescence of the humanities: Is it unethical?

Journal of Academic Ethics 5 (2-4):141-152 (2007)
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The humanities have not enjoyed preeminence in academe since the Scientific Revolution marginalized the old trivium. But they long continued to play a subordinate educational role by helping constitute the distinguishing culture of the elite. Now even this subordinate role is becoming expendable as devotees of the profit motive seek to reduce culture to technological delivery of cultural products (Noble, Digital diploma mills: The automation of higher education, New York: Monthly Review Press, 2003). The result is a deliberate downsizing of the humanities as traditionally understood. Personal preferences aside, is this planned obsolescence morally defensible? Arguably not, if one appeals to traditional ethical norms. But what if its legitimacy is assessed instead according to the quite different norms of capitalism that figure so prominently in university administrators’ rationales as they embrace corporatization? The corporatization of American universities has had multiple effects, and some of these have not been entirely positive. In particular, it has had an adverse effect on the professional status and values of faculty. But how faculty respond to these changes varies according to their institutional situation.
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The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.Weber, Max; Parsons, Talcott & Tawney, R. H.

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