One of the mysteries of academe is why English departments have self-destructed. We understand how it happened — professors moved into esoteric literary theories based on Marxism, feminism, and other -isms, neglecting their traditional duties such as teaching freshman composition. (That’s now handed off to graduate students and adjuncts; what they don’t accomplish is left to “writing across the curriculum” policies.)
But why? From self-interest alone, you would think that teaching the basics of writing would be wise because well-taught introductory courses (especially when required) bring in new students. Some will become majors in the department and expand the department and provide job security. But the number of English majors has taken a nose dive.
Whatever the reason for their decline, English departments have a chance to revive. Burt Wallerstein, a businessman who mentors college graduates (and others), urges English departments to regain their role as a core element of higher education by teaching communication — writing, speaking, and listening. If they don’t, he warns, others (inside or outside of the university) will take over that job and English departments won’t even keep as many students as they have today.