…claim to be an expert if you’re not one

To write a compare/contrast paragraph definition essay essay, you’ll need to make NEW connections and/or express NEW essay questions for college applications differences between two things.

You MUST choose one side or the other when you write an argument paper!

No. The data show that especially in colleges and universities not considered to be among the elite, humanities majors have, for the last quarter century, been holding steady. And if our students sometimes take a few years to figure out their next steps, that’s not such a bad thing, especially since they do quite well over the long run—even if teachers, artists, and nonprofit professionals don’t earn as much as their contemporaries in the private sector. What’s more, they owe their success in part to college professors who care about teaching, and who introduce students to the magic of research.


…provide facts, evidence, and statistics to support your position

…use weak qualifiers like “I believe,” “I feel,” or “I think”—just tell us!

A self like this can seem unworldly, especially if the “real world” resembles a political culture that dismisses complexity and context as “academic.” But in a deeper sense, this is a worldly education, in the traditional way that humanistic education has always embodied. A good humanities education combines training in complex analysis with clear communication skills. Someone who becomes a historian becomes a scholar—not in the sense of choosing a profession, but in the broader meaning of developing the scholarly habits of mind that value evidence, logic, and reflection over ideology, emotion, and reflex. A student of history learns that empathy, rather than sympathy, stands at the heart of understanding not only the past but also the complex present.


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Students who come through this routine may be wonderful scholars in the sense that they can skillfully carry out the exercises with which professional historians or literary critics earn their livings. But their journey to the PhD locks them into little boxes, even smaller than those that house their teachers. They know nothing about the boxes to their right and left, to say nothing of those in other rows: it’s like some hideous academic parody of the Matrix.

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That’s the meme, or set of memes, that’s floating around. And it does describe some professors and some graduate students in some departments at some institutions—enough so that anyone who does a bit of exploration can find egregious examples. But as a general description of the landscape of the humanities in American higher education, it’s about as close to the reality as are the other zombie platitudes about higher ed that stalk the Internet and are repeated in every article—and that no amount of facts seems able to kill. The humanities are dying for lack of students? Not according to the long-term trends—if you take the time to look at all the data, as Benjamin Schmidt of Northeastern University has done, instead of just the data that happen to be accessible online—and not when you factor in the increase in the number and diversity of students. Or what about the notion that humanities graduates face only one choice—become a barista or starve? Not according to recent data that, again, reflect long-term trends rather than the first year or two after graduation.

Doctoral enrollment has increased since 2002.

To go by this critique, the obsession with the minute and the technical not only determines the course of scholars’ research; worse still, it shapes their teaching. Nowadays specialists can’t teach the survey courses of yesteryear. They haven’t read widely or thought about the big themes of history or literature (which of course was easier back when most ideas that mattered emanated from two continents). Instead they offer seminars focused on tiny questions and single authors and artists. Charismatic in their intellect, these professors seduce the most gifted students into imitating them. The university thus becomes a machine—as the critics endlessly repeat—for producing teachers and students who know more and more about less and less.