Academic journal article Nursing History Review

History and the Humanities

Academic journal article Nursing History Review

History and the Humanities

Article excerpt

The headline of a recent New York Times article spelled out a clear warning. "In Tough Times," it proclaimed, "the Humanities Must Justify their Worth." 1 Reporter Patricia Cohen wrote of colleges and universities canceling or postponing faculty searches in English, literature, philosophy, and religion. She cited statistics that showed how the percentage of humanities degrees conferred stubbornly remains half of what it had been when the fields had a renaissance during the 1960s. And she quoted Andrew Delbanco, the director of American studies at Columbia University. "Although people in the humanities have always lamented the state of the field," he noted, "they have never felt quite as much of a panic that their field is becoming irrelevant." The concern was not that the humanities would disappear. Rather, it was that decisions about what to study in colleges and universities would reflect the prerogatives of class-that only the wealthy could afford the luxury of stepping away from training for particular professions and exploring notions of individual citizenship and social responsibility.

The irony (and perhaps this may be too strong a word), of course, is that this article could not have been constructed without a deep sense of history. Understanding the patterns of inclusion and exclusion in higher education made meaning from numbers. And we see this role of history in what I think of as "meaning-making" all around us. We see it in the resonance of particular historical references deliberately called into play by the first African American president of the United States. We hear it every day as media reporters and commentators struggle to make sense of the global economic crisis by comparing and contrasting our experiences with the experiences of those living through the Great Depression of the 1930s.

This process of meaning-making depends on two interrelated ideas. First, it asks that we see the historical experiences of nurses not as nurses per se but rather as emblematic of some broader issue. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.