La crisis de las humanidades

NUEVA YORK – Los debates sobre el futuro de la educación superior en el mundo comienzan a ser escenario de una simetría sorprendente. Por un lado, aumenta la preocupación respecto de que Estados Unidos y muchos países europeos no estén preparando suficientes graduados universitarios en los campos que impulsarán la “economía del conocimiento” en el siglo XXI, por ejemplo la ingeniería y la tecnología de la información. Este temor ha llevado a circunscribir el concepto de educación a la adquisición de habilidades prácticas.

Por otro lado, en algunos lugares de Asia se teme que los jóvenes con alta capacitación técnica que se integren a la fuerza laboral carezcan de experiencia suficiente en el ámbito del “pensamiento creativo”. Este temor se manifiesta en incipientes intentos de ampliar la educación para incluir en ella el cultivo de las emociones y la imaginación.

Ambos movimientos tienen su origen en lo económico. En Estados Unidos, donde la mayor parte de los estudiantes de grado deben hacerse cargo de, al menos, una parte del costo de la educación universitaria que reciben, hay cada vez más presión política para que se ofrezcan incentivos (por ejemplo, descuento en el costo de matrícula o condonación de deudas) a los estudiantes de ciencias, tecnología, ingeniería y matemática. También se estudia aplicar medidas de reducción de costos, por ejemplo, acortar a tres años los programas tradicionales de cuatro años, para lo que se apelaría a la reducción o eliminación de cursos optativos referidos a temas “imprácticos” como la literatura, la filosofía y las bellas artes.

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