Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Oh, the Humanities!

Just saw this gem on Twitter...

I love this so much.

I am a faculty member in higher education. Traditionally speaking, we have three divisions: the natural sciences, the social sciences, and the humanities.

The natural sciences include pure and applied sciences, such as biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, computer science, engineering, and agriculture.

The social sciences include less "sciencey" disciplines, such as psychology, political science, sociology, social work, education, and business.

The humanities include...all the things that make us human, like art, music, theater, languages, history, philosophy, and theology.

I happen to teach in the social sciences (hi, I'm a teacher educator!) and my loves within Education are most closely aligned to the natural sciences (educational technology and science education.) But even as I say that...I feel compelled to say that I think the humanities are actually the core of higher education.

Yes, I know it's a harder sell to get college students today to major in humanities fields. ("But what are you going to do after college?") College in America is not exactly a financially trivial prospect these days, and students--and parents--are hoping for some assurance of a "good job" after graduation. And so, a pre-professional program of study that seems like a ready onramp to a job in a field like nursing or engineering or computer science (okay, or teaching) might seem like a more obvious choice than majoring in English or history or philosophy.

But I want to suggest to you, dear reader, that college is not primarily about getting a good job.

I mean, sure--college is expensive, and you're going to want a job to be able pay for your education! And, certainly you're likely to earn more over the course of your career if you get a college education than if you don't. But that's not what I'm arguing here when I say college is not primarily about getting a good job.

Here's what I am suggesting:

College is less about "getting a good job" and more of becoming a good person.

I will speak personally here. My own college education was a great experience, and I'm the educator I am today due to the influence and impact of the professors that taught my Education courses. And I did get a good job, and I was able to pay back my college loans. But I am ALSO the educator I am today because I took history, and philosophy, and theology, and all the rest of the humanities courses that were part of the liberal arts core of my education. In fact, the way I was taught to reflect, and wrestle, and THINK in my humanities education impacted the way I put all of my learning from my Education courses into practice.

College was a learning experience for me, of course. And I was well-prepared to begin my career as an educator. But it wasn't just about "getting a good job." My college experience shaped who I became as a person, the way I think about the world, the choices I've made for how I want to live my life, and the kind of legacy I want to live.

This is much bigger than just boosting your job prospects.

This is about considering how you will be.

And, for me at least, even though I did not major in the studies in the humanities were essential for me becoming who I am today.

So let's throw a little love to the humanities. If a high schooler or college-age young adult in your life is talking about studying the humanities, what if we actively encouraged this? What kind of difference will they make in the world, because of the kind of people they will become?


  1. Enjoying read Dave! People often forget that what we learn in school has little to do with our careers and more to do with US and how we process information in the long term.

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting, my friend!