Decline of the Humanities

Decline of the Humanities

Here’s an interesting article regarding the drop in students––and, correspondingly, financial allocation by universities––in humanities departments. Rather than bemoan a trend I have no control whatsoever over, I hope to attempt to predict how the trend might affect the SAT and ACT.

The first thing to note is the ascendancy of the ACT in recent years. I’ve posted much about this in the past so no need to belabor the point; but for those just tuning in, since 2005 the ACT has rapidly climbed from its status as much-forgotten cousin of the SAT to one of highly-competitive younger brother.

This change nicely parallels the transition in universities away from humanities and toward science and technology: unlike the SAT, the ACT has a Science section and two of its four Reading passages are drawn from the sciences. In addition, unlike the logic-driven questions on the SAT’s math sections, the ACT’s Math section is straightforward and content-driven–leading some university departments to begin accepting ACT scores in lieu of SAT plus an SAT II test in Mathematics.

That said, the College Board has announced plans to revamp the SAT, which may steer it away from the humanities and toward science and technology. For instance, it may do away with the Sentence Completions questions, which assess vocabulary and in-context meaning––skills important to the humanities. So far, the only change David Coleman, president of the College Board, has spoken openly about is that the essay is going to become more dependent on research and analysis of evidence––skills taken directly from the sciences. And Coleman said he wants to see the SAT more dependent on high school curricula which, if his other project (the Common Core) passes states’ musters, will only become more science and tech oriented as well.

Rest assured, dear reader: however the SAT and ACT change, North Avenue will be here to help prepare your student for college-level academic work.

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