Here is a NY Times article from a month or so ago on how the humanities could and should defend themselves in these tough times. My students will know that I am always rather reluctant to make the utility arguments (study philosophy so that you can kick ass on the LSAT, or to make yourself more competitive in the job market by being a clearer thinker and writer, etc). It is not that those claims are false (in fact, they seem true), rather I just think Aristotle was right when he defended philosophical contemplation as highest precisely because it is useless. The humanities are worth studying because they ask the question of man, one’s life is better ‘intrinsically’ for having engaged the Great Conversation.
Aristotle, NE X.8: ‘So if among virtuous actions political and military actions are distinguished by nobility and greatness, and these are unleisurely and aim at an end and are not desirable for their own sake, but the activity of reason, which is contemplative, seems both to be superior in serious worth and to aim at no end beyond itself …’