A Case for the Humanities

Waltonian | The Waltonian Pixabay

I’d like to start off this article by setting a scene we are all familiar with as college students. Imagine it’s your first week of college and you’re either doing one of those class icebreakers or you’ve sat down with a table of friends in the dining commons. Past the usual “this is my name, I’m from here, I’m living in this dorm hall” introductions, the inevitable “what’s your major” question now arrives.

If you’re like me, you may have braced yourself when giving your answer, a defense ready in your mind. Saying, “I’m a Communication Studies major,” was usually always greeted with an eye roll or a laugh. However, this isn’t an unusual case. I know that my fellow friends in the Arts and Humanities department have also bristled against biting remarks when sharing their majors. It’s a rather unfortunate way to be received by new friends and classmates.

My problem here isn’t to tell you that you should hold back a laugh if your friend is in the Arts and Humanities department. I have a problem with how the Arts and Humanities are perceived in general. This ongoing battle between us and STEM needs to come to a halt if any of us are going to pursue a good education at all.

I’m not here to shoot down STEM majors. I greatly appreciate all of the work that is done within your classrooms. You offer invaluable knowledge and service to the world, and there are plenty of things you excel at that I can only look at in awe. What I would like is for you to appreciate that Arts and Humanities majors offer the same thing.

Developing the creative and social mind is a process that deserves so much more respect and appreciation than it currently receives. Perhaps the immediate image that comes to mind is one that includes musicians and performers, who are fantastic leaders that can inspire our own creative minds. However, the less common vision of the people who manage our day to day communication crises, the creative minds behind creating new spaces or solutions for new problems or the people who become leaders and teachers in helping us develop a crucial part of our humanity is the image that is needed in order to appreciate the importance of Arts and Humanities majors and all that they study.

I’m a huge supporter of helping people reach their fullest potential of who they can be and what they can know. I know that in life, I’m going to need doctors and financial assistants and people who can build houses (and people who know all the math behind it). Even in a more removed sense, I want people in the world who are going to push the limits of what we know about math and science in order to push humanity as a whole further into what we can do.

But humanity reaching its fullest potential doesn’t end there. In my life, I’m also going to need philosophers and theologians who will ask me hard questions about what it means to be human. I want communicators and sociologists who will help me understand where I am struggling to interact with people and how I can overcome those barriers. I want artists who will fill spaces with beauty that allows me to reflect and leave each moment a bit fuller than I was before. I want people in both fields to show us how to develop our logical and creative minds because I know we need both in our quest to become, as philosopher Josef Pieper so aptly put it, “what we already are.”

Are there people who don’t take this approach seriously? Certainly. I’m sure you can also think of people in STEM fields who aren’t valuing the work that they could be doing as well. When you realize that your field offers invaluable insight into the human condition, it becomes that much more infuriating to see it not be taken seriously. My hope is that in realizing the importance of both fields, you yourself will want to be influenced by both.

Clearly, I don’t want you to hate Arts and Humanities studies. I don’t want you to hate STEM studies either. I want you to appreciate humanity in its entirety and consider what each side has to offer when evaluating how you will let these studies influence your life. My hope is that the reason you don’t laugh when someone shares their major is because your response will instead be, “That is beautiful; can you teach me how to be more human?”

Leave a Reply