I can't remember if I wrote a post about this before. I've certainly been talking about it quite a bit with others around the country and the world. That is: the elimination of many arts and humanities programs and departments in way too many universities and colleges.
I first heard about it being language departments. How French, Italian, Russian, even Spanish and other university departments have been shut down to save money, and the excuse given is students aren't as interested in them anymore, or that they aren't "practical" etc.
This is an extension of (I wrote a version of this in a response to a comment on a recent post) what I saw begin in the 1960s when Nixon got elected. His then vice president, Spiro Agnew, gave a speech at the University of Iowa that I went to just to see what these propagators of some of the worst attacks against anyone who questioned their mostly rightwing agenda had in mind for their next targets.
It became apparent only a few lines into his speech that it was education, as I understood it and had experienced it to that point. It was couched in the usual Nixon era rightwing resentment-based prejudices against anything connected to Ivy League and East Coast educational "elitism" etc. Which were really code words for liberal Democrats and those who would push a humanist agenda that sought to broaden the human rights of all people, not just the so-called "Silent Majority"—or as they're known today by Palinites "Real Americans" (i.e. white people who don't argue with the takeover of our country by the wealthy and the corporations that create their wealth).
Back then the right was only interested in diminishing the stature and cache of Harvard (e. al.) educated liberals like the late JFK and his brother Bobby, and the economists and politicians and intellectuals etc. who espoused liberal ideals.
By Reagan's rightwing takeover (and makeover) the attack wasn't just on liberal institutions of higher learning and those that supported them or benefited from them in terms of education etc., but any institutions of higher learning or intellectual rigor that espsoused liberal ideals, like equal rights not just for African-Americans, but for women and gays etc.
And not just that, but even the elementary and high school level institutions that were public, because they tended to teach liberal ideals and even personify them, as they had at least since the Depression and WWII and beyond.
The whole "voucher" idea seemed intended to plant the seed of discontent about the whole idea of public elementary and high school (is it an accident that whole "voucher" argument came into prominence on the rightwing Republican scene after busing to enhance racial integration became a hot button issue for "The Silent Majority" (i.e. white people who... (see above)).
And now "teaching to the test" that came out of Bush Jr.s education policy, which emphasizes math and science and quantifiable "language arts" standards to the exclusion of the old humanities and creative arts agenda (most music classes have been eliminated, for instance, even though it has been shown that those who take music lessons do better in the hard sciences than those who don't etc.).
Which led to many students today having little or no exposure to the arts, to the classics, to languages, etc. so naturally by the time they get to the college level they don't have an interest in those areas. It is clear to me at least, that by Bush/Cheney, the right had moved toward making the case for eliminating the liberal arts and the humanities for the most part from colleges and universities with budgetary and/or so-called "real world" concerns about the future of "American education" and its "ability to compete in the world" etc.
Interesting that just as these things are being eliminated in so many schools in the USA, China is moving to incorporate them, realizing that their old system of teaching just the "practical" curriculum made for great scientists and engineers etc. who could follow orders, but not great thinkers and innovators and creative geniuses who could create new industries and solve seemingly irresolvable dilemmas.
Here's a terrific response to one instance of these changes that according to my friends in academia are occurring pretty much everywhere in our country now. Thanks to Tom Raworth's blog NOTES for the link. And please, read this article to the end to get the full impact of his argument and the potential damage he is addressing.