As I mentioned in my initial entry to this blog, the administration of my university announced today that it would make “differentiated cuts” among the different faculties. Those fields that the administration views as “essential to economic development” will be spared; those that aren’t—in its imperfect estimation—will bear the brunt of the cuts. What that means in practice is that the areas already starved by the administration’s budgets, like the Humanities, will take on the lion’s share of the cuts.
But the administration’s reasoning is woefully flawed: the Humanities do indeed contribute to economic development. I’ll give one simple example from my own field of Italian to show how flawed their thinking is.
Earlier this year, Italian automaker Fiat announced that it had finalized the take-over of Chrysler. In the US, the news of the merger was presented as part of the broader economic crisis facing our country these days. Undoubtedly it is that, but I also see it as prime example of the importance of learning foreign languages, in this case Italian. As Italian money pours into the American auto industry—followed inevitably by Italian managers—people employed in Chrysler management will need to brush up on their Italian. Indeed, in the future anyone involved in the US auto industry, who might find themselves doing business with Fiat / Chrysler, might want to dust off their Italian phrasebooks. While Italy has always been a member of the G-8 group of highly industrialized nations, in the US Italian has just re-established itself as an important language in world business.
So to any future business-school graduates who might find themselves employed in Detroit in the future, I say this: good luck brown-nosing your bosses after only completing Italian 102 in your freshman year. And so there won’t be any doubt: yes, they will be talking about you behind your backs.