Liberal arts degrees have been deemed worthless in today’s era of big data and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). However, this perception towards the liberal arts degrees is not new. As private and public drive to expand STEM education, it brought about new concerns about the value of a liberal arts education as well as arguments about why it is important even to people entering the STEM fields.
There are fewer students pursuing the liberal arts compared to a few decades ago. A recent study by the American Academy of Arts & Sciences through its Humanities Indicators projects revealed that the number of bachelor’s degrees in humanities earned in 2015 declined close to 10 percent from three years earlier.
Gerald Greenberg, senior associate dean of academic affairs; humanities; and curriculum, instruction and programs in the College of Arts and Sciences at Syracuse University shared a new piece on the humanities – what they are and why they are important.
By Gerald Greenberg
The true worth of a higher education has long been contested. In addition, while the reasons for studying subjects with humanities are often ignored even though they go beyond the development of problem solving and critical thinking abilities as well as the explicit provision of job skills training among students.
A liberal education is a cohesive collection of experiences which generally includes the study of natural sciences (including mathematics), social sciences and the humanities. A university curriculum typically requires students to try out fields in each subject. For instance, within the social sciences, one can learn about how resources are used by people and companies which can lead to an understanding the mechanisms of economic development. The point is that it is only through engaging in the thinking processes practiced in these areas can one be learn about the various methods of thinking, analysing and questioning. The experiences gained from studying in different fields may be qualitatively different, but they are all vital pieces of the Tao of the liberal arts, and are all equally important.
Through the pursuit of knowledge in humanities, one has the opportunities to gain better insights into oneself and others, better understand and deal with intricate moral issues and the complexities and intricacies of humanity. Humanities provide alternative views to issues and allow for better decision-making processes when diverse opinions and ideas are considered. Leaders and decision-makers who are able to exploit a greater diversity of ideas and knowledge are able to run businesses and governments more effectively and react to complex situations as they develop and arise. We continuously witness that a lack of appreciation of the humanity involved in any situation can lead to negative consequences.
The value of humanities can only be fully appreciated by experiencing and knowing them. Learning about humanities opens one to the analysis of the entirety of human condition and inspires one to deal with the recurring complex moral issues in life. It also encourages reflection and provides one with an appreciation an empathy for humanity. This is why critical thinking done in the humanities goes beyond problem solving.
Even if we cannot agree on what they are, the humanities are an important part of the way. Given the state of the country and world today, they are more important than ever.
Source: Washington Post