Humanities education still necessary in modern world

COMMENTARY BY
SARAH MUELLER

Do you know how many times I have been told that my major is not important? That I will not make any money — that is, if I even get a job after I graduate? “You know how bad the job market is, right?” “What do you even do with an English degree?” “Oh, you want to teach? Good luck with that.”
With all of the occupational therapy, physical therapy, nursing, business, pre-med and biology, cell and molecular biology (BCMB) students who attend The University, it is easy to undervalue majors that fall under the humanities track, such as English, history and theater. Of course, those science- and math-based majors are vital to society’s needs; however, neglecting the humanities, which foster our souls and open our minds and hearts, dulls society and limits our creativity.
In a New York Times article entitled “A Decline that Makes Economic Sense,” Anthony P. Carnevale writes, “In a capitalist economy it’s hard to be a lifelong learner if you’re not a lifelong earner. So if colleges don’t make students employable, they are unlikely to achieve their broader goals for human flourishing.”
Since when does “human flourishing” disregard the human soul, which thrives on learning, passion and celebrating the arts? Why should employability be the only the only prerequisite for a successful life? Does success not include satisfying the craving for art and imagination? If all we as a collective society come to value are science and industry, how will we be able to channel our humanity? How will we remember to express our human nature?
Not only are humanities undervalued at the university level, but they are also being disposed of in earlier education as well. Regarding the lack of investment in humanities for primary and secondary education, Annette Gordon-Reed, author of the New York Times article, “A Victim of Austerity and Student Debt” comments, “In this time of austerity, things deemed non-essential are the first to go. Primary and secondary schools have lost, or are about to lose, programs in the arts and music — classes that were considered critical to child development but are now treated as frivolities.”
As Gordon-Reed said, humanities were once considered fundamental to child development. I want to extend this statement and claim that humanities are, in fact, crucial to human development. Humanities allow students of all ages and stages of educational development to express, empower and enlighten themselves.
The way that The University addresses humanities is, in my opinion, admirable. Sure, humanities majors may not constitute the largest number of students; however, I believe that The University does emphasize humanities in its general education requirements and values and promotes humanities through different clubs and organizations. Organizations such as LIVA, the Scranton Players, the Photography Club, Art with Heart and the Philosophy Society all encompass the ideals of the humanities. The Aquinas even falls into the humanities category.
Remember that humanities feed the soul and foster human development and passion. Remember that humanities are worth far more than a potential paycheck or job offer. Lastly, remember that humanities matter, for they cultivate our minds and transform us into the citizens we are meant to be.

Contact the writer:
sarah.mueller@scranton.edu

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