Accept the short term as your standard—support only what students want to study right now and outside agencies want to fund right now—and you lose the future. The subjects and methods that will matter most in twenty years are often the ones that nobody values very much right now. Slow scholarship—like Slow Food—is deeper and richer and more nourishing than the fast stuff. But it takes longer to make, and to do it properly, you have to employ eccentric people who insist on doing things their way. The British used to know that, but now they’ve streaked by us on the way to the other extreme.
Universities are elitist: they are about selecting the most able cohort of a generation and educating them to their ability—breaking open the elite and making it consistently anew. Equality of opportunity and equality of outcome are not the same thing. A society divided by wealth and inheritance cannot redress this injustice by camouflaging it in educational institutions—by denying distinctions of ability or by restricting selective opportunity—while favoring a steadily widening income gap in the name of the free market. This is mere cant and hypocrisy.
We are making and remaking cultural forms, often in new and exciting ways. If you are older, or more conservative, you might think these forms are strange. But you should recognize that such sentiments are a predictable reaction, like the fear of the awesome and the new. That fear is a good thing. It marks revolutionary thinking. If you want a son or daughter trained for life in the unpredictable future, and if they want to get a college or university degree, know that a genuine and durable knack for innovation comes from the humanities, and not from a degree in Marketing.