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The Humanities Studies Debate

In the 21st century economy, does a humanities major still make sense for college students?  We hear the arguments.

(Flickr/Jessdamen)

(Flickr/Jessdamen)

It’s almost school time again, and the great humanities debate rolls on.  Should American colleges and college students throw their resources, their minds, their futures, into the ancient pillars of learning – philosophy, language, literature, history, the arts.  Or are those somehow less relevant, less urgent studies today in a hyper-competitive global economy?

Defenders of the humanities say this is the very foundation of human insight.  To study, as Socrates said, “the way one should live.”  Critics say:  “Crunch some numbers.  Get a job.”

This hour, On Point:  the great humanities debate.

- Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Ed Conard, author of the Washington Post essay “We Don’t Need More Humanities Majors.” Author of “Unintended Consequences: Why Everything You’ve Been Told About the Economy is Wrong.” (@edwardconard)

Mark Edmundson, author of the Washington Post essay”Why major in humanities? Not just for a good job — for a good life.” Professor of English at the University of Virginia. Author of “Why Teach: In Defense of a Real Education.”

Max Nisen, strategy reporter for Business Inside. Author of the piece “11 Reasons to Ignore the Haters and Major in the Humanities.”

From Tom’s Reading List

The Washington Post: We Don’t Need More Humanities Majors — “It’s no secret that innovation grows America’s economy. But that growth is constrained in two ways. It is constrained by the amount of properly trained talent, which is needed to produce innovation. And it is constrained by this talent’s willingness to take the entrepreneurial risks critical to commercializing innovation. Given those constraints, it is hard to believe humanities degree programs are the best way to train America’s most talented students.”

The Washington Post: Why major in humanities? Not just for a good job — for a good life — “Humanities professors have come up with a seemingly foolproof defense against those who trash degrees in, say, English literature or philosophy as wasted tuition dollars, one-way tickets to unemployment. Oh no, we say — the humanities prepare students to succeed in the working world just as well as all those alleged practical majors, maybe even better.”

Business Insider: 11 Reasons to Ignore the Haters and Major in the Humanities — “If you look at a chart of post-graduate salaries, the liberal arts don’t look very appealing. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. If you study and set out to find a job in a narrow academic area, you’re going to have a hard time. But if you’re smart about it and do something like what Logitech CEO Bracken Darrell suggests and supplement the major with in-demand skills, you’re a member of an ‘endangered species’ who can think and write well, and for whom there’s a surprising amount of demand.”

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  • Wildboer

    As long as we are human there will be reason to study humanities…

  • Phil McCoy

    OF Course it does. majoring in humanities allowed me to learn how to use a different style of learning/academics. I am currently in medical school, but I know for a fact that the majority of my growth in critical thinking came from my humanities courses where I had to defend myself in a Socratic setting. while upper level STEM courses may provide some of this, I think it really is a shame the amount of flack humanities receive. the bigger issue is, should humanities majors really have to pay the same tuition as STEM majors when they use a fraction of the resources STEM students do (all a humanities major needs is an internet connection and access to jstor/library. STEM need expensive labratory equipment, purpose built buildings, etc.) also there are too many humanities majors who do not plan out their career paths (to many people use it as an easy way to get a degree).

    cheers

  • Michiganjf

    No, we don’t need the Humanities…

    …instead, what we need is the Republican, frat boy vision of the world, wherein greed, selfishness, and the profit motive are the only worthwhile goals in life.

    -We don’t need to learn about human suffering or the human experience, as empathy and understanding are left-wing conspiracies to rob the REAL workers of their wealth.

    -We no longer require the benefit of the accumulated thought, insight, and wisdom of the sum of human existence… again, knowledge is for lefties who will just end up bragging that they know what’s best for everyone.

    -We don’t need to learn from history or our past mistakes, since history really needs to be re-written anyway, to suit our “gut instinct” and dogma.

    Why learn about anyone or anything different from us, when we can just as easily encase ourselves in a little bubble of like-minded, xeroxed clones.

    We’ve done a fine job undermining our institutions of learning lately… why drudge up facts and all that wisdom again, just when we’ve finally discredited learning enough to win an argument?

    It’s not like people used to find other ways to make a living besides serving corporate masters for peanuts.

    OH, WAIT A MINUTE!

    Does Ayn Rand count as “humanities?”
    Let me actually think about this for a second…

    Sincerely,
    A Conservative Thinkur

  • Expanded_Consciousness

    What? Gordon Gekko needed a course in ethics? Nah!

    With all the technological innovation coming in the 21st century, with all the promises and perils, the constructive and destructive possibilities, the last thing we need is a democracy filled with humanists and informed thinkers.

    • Expanded_Consciousness

      That was sarcasm, BTW.

  • b smart

    steve jobs steve jobs steve jobs steve jobs steve jobs steve jobs steve jobs steve jobs steve jobs steve jobs steve jobs steve jobs steve jobs steve jobs steve jobs steve jobs steve jobs steve jobs steve jobs steve jobs steve jobs steve jobs steve jobs steve jobs….oh and that one guy who started that one computer company that changed the way the world works…oh yeah, STEVE JOBS!

  • Yar

    I heard Wendell Berry speak this past weekend.

    He said:
    “The most effective means of local self-determination would be a well-developed local economy based upon the use and protection of local resources, including local human intelligence and skills

    Berry referred to the “tragedy” of industrialization and its emphasis on “job creation.” Industrialization has harmed rural areas all over Kentucky and especially eastern Kentucky.

    “A ‘job’ exists without reference to anybody in particular or any place in particular. If a person loses a ‘job’ in eastern Kentucky and finds a ‘job’ in Alabama, then he has ceased to be ‘unemployed’ and has become ‘employed.’ It does not matter who the person is or what or where the ‘job’ is. ‘Employment’ in a ‘job’ completely satisfies the social aim of the industrial economy and its industrial government.”

    “I can tell you confidently that the many owners of small farms, shops and stores and the self-employed craftspeople who were thriving in my county in 1945 did not think of their work as ‘a job,’” Berry said. “Most of those people, along with most skilled employees who worked in their home county or home town, have now been replaced by a few people working in large chain stores and by a few people using large machines and other human-replacing industrial technologies. Local economies, local communities, even local families, in which people lived and worked as members, have been broken.”

    We will always need storytellers, Wendell Berry is among the best, they put history in a narrative that carries it across generations. Even bees know how to dance. The humanities are communication, all technical fields need people who can communicate. The most effective engineers are those who have both liberal arts and engineering degrees.
    For more Wendell Berry http://www.kftc.org/

  • Fiscally_Responsible

    The problem with humanities degrees that are obtained today is that the teaching is based on the “wisdom” of man. The very accurate description of man and his sin nature, which leads to all of his emotional, psychological, and social problems,as described and exemplified throughout the Bible, is ignored and even forsaken. This is why man is not able to really solve the most deep-seated social problems, why man rejects Biblical truth and embraces such nonsense as rejecting gay conversion therapy, and man continues on the answerless path toward his own self-destruction.

    • jefe68

      The Spanish Inquisition called, they want their dogma back.

  • Ed75

    I don’t know about the economics, but it’s part of being a human being to know where we’ve come from, our cultural history and heritage. But (as the comment below), perhaps it’s Marxist theory, religion is seen as a tiny side issue, when (as Chesterton says) one’s philosophy of life is the one thing that really matters since it determines everything else.
    Most classics were written taking some position toward God, many were written out of direct religious inspiration. The Canterbury Tales, for example, ends with a 120-page exhortation to penitence and confession. Many classics are really lengthy dialogues with the Bible (e.g. The Waste Land). But in humanities teaching now theology and religion are excised from the discussion, or somehow dismissed, which takes the power out of the works and makes them merely observations, and is a misreading.

  • RolloMartins

    Of course we need the Humanities, but who would say to a HS grad to go ahead and accrue debt to pay for it? When public colleges are free, then sure. So in Sweden, Finland, Germany, etc it makes more sense. But until we get rid of this serve-the corporate-master ideology that now sickens us, young people have to make wise fiscal–but otherwise detrimental–choices.

  • adks12020

    The fact that there is even a question about the value of studying humanities makes me ill. In order to know who we are, where we’ve been, and the course forward knowledge of the humanities is key. Of course an uninformed public with a lack of broad knowledge is easier to control and less likely to resist detrimental changes to our cultures and economies so some people want the humanities want to go away. Humans are not simply machines intended to do work and make money. We are complex organisms that need this broad knowledge in order to function and interact properly. Knowledge of history, social sciences, language, etc. are fundamental aspects of human life and shouldn’t be discarded because they aren’t financially worth as much.

  • Ray in VT

    The humanities are a very valuable course of study, and they most certainly should remain a path of study for some. There are jobs to be had in the field, if one is purely looking as to whether one can make a living pursuing such a course of study, although perhaps not as many as we have been gearing people up for. In the end, though, I think that in many ways the humanities should seem to justify themselves, as we need to know where we have been if we want to know where we are going.

  • John Cedar

    It is not humanities that are a problem, it is the people drawn to the subject matter, as their primary interest, that are the problem. Just as environmental scientists and journalists are all cut from a certain thin piece of cheap fabric, humanities majors are too often a case of trying to fit a gallon of water in a quart container. The book titles pictured in the top photo ought to have been read as a matter of incidental experience, not as a major course of study. If for no other reason than to understand Dennis Miller jokes.

    Humanities are like dessert. If you make it your major entree, you will just get fat lazy and useless, (if you were not already). Healthy eaters know there is plenty of natural sugar in most diets and the refined concentrated processed sugars will not help you gain muscle, but just fat.

    • jefe68

      Clearly critical thinking is not one of your attributes.

      “You speak an infinite deal of nothing.”
      ― William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

    • plr01

      The best lack all conviction, while the worst
      Are full of passionate intensity.

      - Yeats

    • nj_v2

      ^ This may be the stupidest post of the week.

      • jefe68

        It is something else, that’s for sure.

  • Coastghost

    A sound humanities undergraduate degree confers VERSATILITY, which is going to remain key both to the US economy and to US workers: companies and businesses making nimble adjustments to changing conditions will ALWAYS need a class of workers who can dependably fill any of a number of support roles, and workers who can transit from one domain to another with relative ease will be valued as employees (I cite my own wanderings over twenty years from public school teaching to book publishing to desktop publishing to TV broadcast news: all made possible by the BA I earned in English with a 3.56 GPA [History minor])–not necessarily in lead or high-profile roles early on, but steady employment will bring its own opportunities. (I would not argue against some kind of STEM minor, however, or any kind of substantive business/econ exposure.)

  • Faith Barrow-Waheed

    I don’t regret majoring in Religious Studies. I improved my critical thinking skills and learned so much about humanity’s spiritual needs. I admit that I am currently in grad school learning library science as I had a difficult time finding a job with my current degree. Still, if I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change my undergrad major. I have gained skills that will serve me throughout my life as a result of my major.

  • John_in_Amherst

    in·hu·mane
    adjective
    not humane; lacking humanity, kindness, compassion, etc.

    “The most important things in life aren’t things.”
    - Anthony J. D’Angelo

    Our current education system focuses on “practical skills” like math and reading. Ignored are basics, both important skills and modes of thought. While math and reading proficiency prepare kids for the workplace, we are doing less and less to ready them for life beyond work. Teaching how to think, and how to manage daily life, its routines, emergencies and emotions, are being left to chance, to the detriment of society. Some of the most valuable skills and subjects everyone should be exposed to before graduating high school: banking/financial planning, CPR, first aid, nutrition, logic, statistics, and HUMANITIES. If all education is doing is cranking out cogs for the machine of industry, we are building an inhumane society.

  • thequietkid10

    I can only speak to my own experience. My first experience in college, I doubled majored in History and Education. I got through with a 3.3 average, not great, but not bad either. And then bombed my student teacher assignment. I was young and stupid so I assumed that my History degree would be enough for now, and I could go back for a master’s degree later. (I should probably mention, I graduated in 2008).

    After three years flailing around working in non skill positions, I returned to school for a legal studies degree and found a job in my field before I left college. Unfortunately, when I got there, my grammar/editing skills were woefully inadequate, and there was a period of adjustment.

    All that being said, I think there is a lot of value to a liberal arts education, but it needs to diverse and multifaceted and CHALLENGING. At my first college, there was a popular math class called “Math in Action.” It was popular, because if fulfilled the liberal arts requirement for math, without actually doing a substantial amount of math (and none of that pesky calculus or statistics).

    The last point I’ll make is that there is a substantial difference between a liberal arts degree, and a liberal arts education. You can get a decent liberal arts education at almost no cost by going to your local library.

  • toc1234

    the reality is that a science major can go into a 300 level humanities class and do fine. The humanities major wouldn’t even know the symbols/jargon in the 300 level math/chem/physics class.

    • adks12020

      That is such a load of bull. I received a B.A. in Cultural Anthropology and I took nearly 30 credits of science/math classes, most of them 300 level: biology, chemistry, calculus, statistics, environmental science, physical geography. I did very well in all those classes which I only took because I was interested in them. In the end I had enough for a minor. I found upper level anthropology classes to be much more difficult. The reading was dense and covered a wide variety of subjects and disciplines; the papers and tests required abstract thought and forced me to come up with my own ideas, theories, arguments, etc. The science and math classes were pure memorization. I learned a lot but memorization is boring. I’d also like to point out that I took several medical anthropology classes which had many biology and chemistry students in them. They thought they would be easy electives and they ended up having more difficulty than any of the other students in the classes. They understood the science part better than some but had a hard time with the theoretical aspects of social science and the difficult reading.

      • toc1234

        say what you want, and I don’t know what school you went to, but no humanities major would be able to stroll into a real 300 level abstract algebra math class, for example. (btw – memorization? in most upper level science exams they let you bring reference materials b/c it aint gonna help you much in the time allotted..). anyway, not sure how you were taking all these 300 level science class yet only have “almost” 30 credits – if they were legit you’d need all the prerequisites… but whatever, if venting about your decision to eschew the hard sciences for softer subject matter makes you feel better, then go for it…

        • adks12020

          I’m not “eschewing hard sciences”. They are valuable to society. You are ignoring the value, and academic difficulty, of social sciences.

          BTW…100, 200, 300 level bio…10 credits (3 for two, 4 for the lab)

          100, 200, 300 level chem…10 credits (3 for two, 4 for the lab)
          The first 6 classes gave me the pre-requisites for the other classes I took.

          • toc1234

            odd, where I went you need to take two semesters (8 credits total) in each of the 100 and 200 levels for chem/bio/physics.

          • adks12020

            Different states and different schools have different requirements. Some state schools require 60 credits of general education; some private schools require almost none. Some schools give 4 credits for classes that only earn you three at another school. Some schools give 2 credits for labs other schools only give one credit for.

          • jefe68

            This person is incapable of critical thinking. Did you notice how he or she was not able to parse the content of what you posted. They projected their own agenda onto your comment.

    • jefe68

      The reality is your comment seems to point to the argument for a well rounded education that includes the Humanities. As it does seem to show a lack critical thinking skills.

  • AnneDH

    My sister in law is a Dean at St. Michael’s College in Colchester, Vermont. She and I were once discussing her difficulties in coming up with a sound argument
    that would convince parents that a liberal arts education is still valuable in this day and age.

    I was hard-pressed to come up with an answer until I looked back over the years since my own graduation from the University of Vermont in 1980 with a B.A. in French.
    To earn this degree I was required to take a certain amount of distribution credits in various fields of study, plus I spent my Junior year in France. This variety of classes in Anthropology,
    World History, Communications, Music, Literature and Art History in combination with a year spent abroad gave me not just the ability to construct a decent research paper or
    talk intelligently within a group a peers. Simply put, it opened my mind at a critical time of my life, adolescence.

    This is what I believe a Liberal Arts education is all about: exposing students to other cultures and eras from varying points of view, so that they can function in the world with the ability to put
    themselves in others’ shoes, and not be afraid to pursue whatever path they choose for themselves.

    I didn’t appreciate this at the time, however. I remember being envious of the business and science majors I met who would likely be making real money straight out of college.
    But when I ironically ended up becoming a very successful computer programmer, sitting next to individuals who had majored in these fields (one I remember scoffing at the idea of going to the
    library), I realized I could communicate better than they could, was better at relationships with the end-users we worked for, and consistently received high marks for my skills in problem analysis.
    Then when I went home, I enjoyed a rich intellectual life of ongoing education by watching documentaries, reading books of all kinds, attending lectures, singing in community choirs and playing piano.
    I have since left that career, but I continue to be a ‘student’.

    That’s what a liberal arts education did for me.

  • Markus6

    We hire a lot of people out of college to do research, analysis, setting up meetings, taking notes, that sort of thing. Some great experience and some, frankly, administrative stuff. From a long track record of what works and doesn’t, we prefer the math, sciences, computer majors. Doesn’t mean we ignore the softer sciences of humanities, english, etc., but we’ve found they lack discipline and analytic skills in how they work and think. All college grads seem pretty clueless, but the ones with the hard science majors just seem significantly less clueless.

    I don’t know if it’s in the nature of how subjects like humanities are taught or that a specific type of person is drawn to teaching it. But from what I’ve seen of the courses, they really need to improve in areas like critical thinking.

  • SPT2013

    A humanities degree can come in very handy if public service is your calling. I have an undergraduate degree in computer science and an MBA. After fifteen years of what now feels like sleepwalking through numerous offices and boardrooms, I did not find corporate life very fulfilling. I bought a house, traveled, got married, started a family and paid off my student loans during that time. But I quit the field two years ago, got a degree in international relations and recently started working in a global think-tank. Even though I make slightly less money now, I am way more happy with my job than I can ever remember being. For me there was a time for a STEM degree and an MBA but I feel I grew out of those and needed something that provided more meaning.

  • Steve_in_Vermont

    I wonder, if more citizens (including our politicians) had a solid grounding
    in one of the Humanities (history) would we have been as likely to involve
    ourselves in Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan? Perhaps, with a better understanding of these countries and the involvement of others in the past, recent history would (now) look a lot different.

    • Ray in VT

      One might hope, but I don’t know if it would really help, and while history can inform, it can also mislead. For decades after Munich we said “no more Munichs”, and that sort of thinking got us into Vietnam. Then we started saying “no more Vietnams”, yet we still ended up in a similar situation with Iraq.

  • skelly74

    Is the humanities your strong suit? Do you need the status as a formally educated member of society? Join the club. Drop the dough on the education…

    If you don’t want to pad the wallets of overpaid Professors and college administration officials…get a free library card and pay some late fees from time to time…think for yourself!

    • Ray in VT

      The “people’s university” is a great thing indeed, but I certainly think that there is a great deal of value to be had from the experience of having a class or group of people with similar interests meeting with someone with some broad knowledge in a particular area of study. I think that such a setting is less likely to lead one astray, as one can if one consults only oneself and a few select, and perhaps not valid or factually accurate, sources.

      • thequietkid10

        On the other hand, independent study allows the learner to pursue what interest him/her, and I believe in that way that they will better retain what they have learned.

        • Ray in VT

          Very true. I was part of a program in grade school that basically allowed the students, within certain restrictions, to set their own curriculum, and the kids pursued what they found interesting, and they stayed on task very well. On the other hand, though, many of the kids siloed themselves in, and they came away with a much less rounded background (at least that was my feeling). I think that it is beneficial to have a good, broad base, and I know that when I was an undergrad one had to take all of the general education stuff, and then one could focus in on one’s interest. I got all of the general ed classes out of the way in my first 3 semesters, and then I spent a couple of years doing 5 or 6 upper level history classes per semester, and it was great.

  • sharlyne1

    Due to the high cost of a college education studying humanities at this point in time only keeps my generation and those behind us burdened with astronomical college debt. I do think it’s important to study humanities but if these majors cannot find a job for their given field of study in which they’re financially independent, it’s not worth the college loan. That’s why my generation is so stuck. We went onto higher education at a time when tuition costs were exponentially out of control climbing at ridiculously high rates, only to come out with huge debts $80-100,000, and jobs that barely pay $30,000.

    As important culturally humanities are, my generation, and the generations behind me cannot afford these fiscally unsound career choices. I wish it were different, but until the cost of higher education is controlled, we need to move in a direction that allows the youth to be educated for career choices without putting them in the hole upon graduation. Even that’s not a guarantee anymore. Those well paying jobs with certifications or minimal higher education are now disappearing. My friend is a Radiology tech. She paid for an 18 month certification program and made decent money right out of school seven years ago. However, as of two years ago, the course of study has changed and now an 18 month certification program is a 4 year degree. Really? This is what’s wrong with our economy and why my generation is so stuck. The ever changing job requirements and cost at keeping up with continuing education are outpacing wages. It’s a broken system designed to continually keep young people indebted to higher education.

    • thequietkid10

      But, But ,But we need more education because there those who only have an 18 month certification program are obviously not educated enough in Mozart, Dickens, and calculus to do there job effectively. (I kid)

      Seriously, I am willing to bet that that the change in radiology requirements, has everything to do with college lobbyist, with a self serving interest. Young people in the future will suffer with more debt that they probably didn’t need to take on to be an effective Radiology Tech, College continue to get rich, and the quality of the new tech’s they produce will be marginally better then how good your friend was when she finished her program.

      • sharlyne1

        you said it!!

  • Potter

    Sorry we have to even ask this question.YES! What do you mean by “makes sense”?

  • Emily4HL

    My fiance and I are 2010 and 2011 graduates. He studied studio art and is well employed in his field. I studied English and work as a technical writer. We were both physics minors and also have technical skills. We both got our jobs through internships.

    If your humanities major teaches you how to think, problem-solve, and communicate, especially in writing, than it can be worthwhile. You also need to confidently explain how your humanities major taught you those skills.

    • Yar

      It works both ways, technical skills inform your writing as well. Look at the background of Barbara Kingsolver.
      After graduating from high school, Kingsolver attended DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana, on a music scholarship, studying classical piano. Eventually, however, she changed her major to biology when she realized that “classical pianists compete for six job openings a year, and the rest of [them] get to play ‘Blue Moon’ in a hotel lobby”.[3] She was involved in activism on her campus, and took part in protests against the Vietnam war.[2] She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in 1977, and moved to France for a year before settling in Tucson, Arizona, where she lived for much of the next two decades. In 1980, she enrolled in graduate school at the University of Arizona,[3] where she earned a Master’s degree in ecology and evolutionary biology

    • Tamara2012

      Great point! Lots of humanities majors go on to be doctors, lawyers, scientists, etc. I was a biology major at a liberal arts college which had numerous gen ed/liberal arts requirements. I think having to round out all of my lectures and labs with humanities seminar courses that encouraged thinking and problem solving in a framework that was different from all of my science courses helped to round me out and make me a better thinker and scientist.

  • Ray in VT

    “We don’t need more humanities majors” from the guy who says that we’d be better off if the super-wealthy had even more of our nation’s wealth. No thank you.

    • Leonard Bast

      And now he’s just made a speech on the subject of open-mindedness not being good for business!

  • Emily4HL

    I think it depends on the quality of the humanities degree and the diligence of the student. If you learn only the facts of literature, French, or history, you are pigeonholed. If you learn to interpret those facts, make arguments, and communicate about them, you can transfer those skills.

    Another problem occurs when students study humanities because they don’t know what else to study. Students need an idea of how to apply those skills. I studied English and some science intending to go into technical communication. I’m fascinated by physics, but my real talent is in writing and communication. When I interview prospective students as an alum, I advocate taking a gap year if the student truly has no idea what they want to do. Choosing English is great; falling into it because you have to chose a major is not effective.

  • Yar

    Where would we be without Dickens, Sinclair, Vonnegut, Orwell, and Huxley? Business don’t want their exploitation put into stories that show the public a way to fight back.

    • viacarrozza

      Where would we be without a story??…without narrative? And don’t forget the other arts…where would we be without Michelangelo, Rembrandt, and Titian ?

    • Leonard Bast

      Amongst the first people that any fascist government has to gain control over (or eliminate) are the historians, writers, and artists.

      • Ray in VT

        What was it that Orwell said? He who controls the past controls the present? Something like that.

    • J__o__h__n

      Conservatives misread Orwell so I’m hoping they take more math classes so they realize that 2+2 isn’t really 5.

  • Expanded_Consciousness

    Haha! Helping your fellow man versus making yourself happy. This guy thinks like a high school student. His underdeveloped mind is obvious.

    • Ray in VT

      Of course they are not mutually exclusive.

  • Leonard Bast

    Now I’ve heard it all. Open-mindedness is not good for business! And I’ve heard it straight from the mouth of one of Mitt Romney’s cronies amongst the financial elite.

  • Charles Vigneron

    The humanities place us within the continuum of ideas. What it is to be a society and a functional person within that society.
    Most of all—critical thinking for oneself. Business could use more of that.

  • HLB

    Where’s Conard’s book, How to Steal from Your Fellow Man: And Get Filthy Rich Doing It!

    I wonder what lessons from it we’d really want to adopt?

    Thanks much. Vietnam-era Inductee/Veteran

  • Lauren Dahlin

    I find it funny that an economics major is arguing for the humanities degree. Majoring in Economics is very different from majoring in Art History. Graduating with an economics major you usually have math/statistics, programming an analytical skills. Many humanities majors don’t get these.

    Economics is a very employable degree, which is why it’s on the rise versus, say, Political Science.

    • northeaster17

      I got a Political Science degree in 1983. Hey I even worked in politics for a few years. The degree has served me well but one needs to be versatile with such a degree.

      • Lauren Dahlin

        I actually am a dual economics and political science major. I graduated from a liberal arts college. I think it’s possible to be successful with a political science degree but now, versus 1983, there is a glut of political science majors. I don’t feel that my political science major helped me at all on the job market because it didn’t give me the math and programming skills employers were looking for. However, it did help me grow and learn about myself and society.

  • Jeff

    I’ve found that most humanities majors are typically the most closed minded…they get the liberal indoctrination and if you disagree with that ideology they will shut you out and call you names. I find that people with STEM majors can analyze and discuss all issues with a more open mind and come together with a more collaborative solution than most liberal arts majors. Much of it has to do with the idea of politics, STEM individuals tend to be more open to many different perspectives while the liberal arts majors remain true to their name and end up being hard left liberals, rejecting all other viewpoints.

    • J__o__h__n

      My engineer friends are even more liberal that I am. My Republican friend was an English major.

      • Jeff

        I’m not saying engineers are conservative or that ALL liberal arts majors are liberal, try discussing political issues and coming up with solutions and see which group is more willing to find a solution in the middle (more common sense solution). See which group has a more open minded solution and will allow others to speak and is willing to hear opinions different from their own.

        • J__o__h__n

          I didn’t say you did but I find more engineers and scientists tend to be liberal. I’m in Boston so that might skew the sample, but I doubt it. The middle ground isn’t always a common sense solution. A large part of the conservative base are religious and scientists tend to be atheists.

          • Jeff

            All of what you say is true, it is a contradiction to suggest that these STEM people are hard-right or conservative while not all that religious…sure some issues shouldn’t have a middle ground (i.e. slavery) but the vast majority do.

          • John Cedar

            You make some brilliant observations.
            But you are being closed minded on slavery. If you recall, Marx, (a registered democrat), argued in his manifesto that the slave was better off than the employee because an owner would continue to take care of his property[slave] even when the work was finished, while an employer would simply allow his employees to starve when the work was done.

            Your accusation that humanities majors are closed minded rings true, as evidenced by all the comments here stating that they detest the question being asked in the first place. Can you imagine if someone asked if STEM majors were a wast of time. Would a STEM major cry about the question being asked? No, they would either ignore the question, as ridiculous, or make a case.

    • Expanded_Consciousness

      No humanities person is advocating for abolishing or reducing the STEM fields. Who’s the indoctrinated one? The one who’s thinking hasn’t been challenged since high school literature class.

      • Jeff

        If you must inquire, I was a more left wing individual when I was younger but as I’ve had conversations and calculated the solutions and had many discussions the position of being a libertarian is the most intellectually honest position in politics. I hear everyone out and based on the solutions offered I will tend to measure which option will have the best results. Most of the time it’s the free market and letting individuals have as many rights as possible…that’s my ideology now after weighing the pros and cons.

    • Leonard Bast

      Not that this is the subject under discussion on today’s program, but there is definitely a correlation between being politically liberal and having a higher level of education (regardless of the area of study).

      • John Cedar

        How do you know that?

        If you factor out trial lawyers and unionized education industrial complex employees, what happens to the stats?

        Not that this is the subject under discussion but there is definitely a correlation between people who claim to be liberal but who actually subscribe to very illiberal intolerant discriminatory ideas.

        • J__o__h__n

          If you factor out four out of five dentists, no dentists recommend Trident.

    • MadMarkTheCodeWarrior

      Really? I thought that extremists have the lock on closed-mindedness.I may have to re-evaluate my position.
      I know a bunch of hard-right engineers and there’s no shortage of emotionally charged, knee-jerk reactions to any idea that challenges their view of “life, the universe, and everything”.

      • Jeff

        So what does “hard-right” mean, religious or scientific or free-market? Not quite sure where you’re going with “life, the universe” I would think more scientifically minded people would support the idea of evolution while those who are typically “hard-right” would not…you seem to be at a contradiction.

    • Markus6

      I was avoiding this topic, because it seemed a bit off point, but at the risk of overgeneralizing, the humanities majors seem to think in a more binary way – all republicans are bad (within this forum) or all democrats are bad (in others). Ironically, the seem unable to see the nuances of a position or argument. I don’t think this is because of humanities but more because of the teachers who teach it. Those I’ve met in my college town seem so dug in to their positions. It’s ironic given they’re suppose to be teaching critical thinking.

      However, I do think the analytic skills picked up in the sciences teach you to rely more on data.

      • Jeff

        I completely agree, look at all the attacks I’m getting by making this point…they’re making my point for me with the continued attacks from many of those same humanities majors…sure I’m making a generalization but the discussion is about a generic topic. I’d just like more people to use statistics, numbers and common sense rather than pure emotion or their previously established viewpoint.

    • jefe68

      What’s so interesting is how you complain about being attacked and yet you are doing the very thing that you are protesting about. YOu sue loaded words such as “liberal indoctrination” and just by the very nature of your tone and attitude you shut down the very discourse you are complaining about.

      The right and the left are pulling away from the center and are apt to be less tolerant of each others views.

      I’ve read enough of your comments to come to the conclusion that methinks the gentleman doth protest to much.

  • Cody Murray

    I earned an accounting degree because I knew I could get a job. I have never had a problem with employment but I have struggled with finding a job that aligns with my passion or at least my interests. If a few more humanity classes could have helped me find my passion, I would have taken them. Maybe the solution is more humanities like philosophy required in the gen ed of business and STEM degree programs.

  • AC

    i think i read an article years ago that China is less creative/innovative because they ignore classes like this.
    i’m an engineer, but i strongly believe you need to be able to think abstractly which requires this sort of training (humanities)….it’s too bad it seems all answers/opinions seem to be so absolute….

  • Emily4HL

    I don’t think the problem is pushing students into humanities. I think the problem is pushing students into college before they are ready or have a clue what they want to do. If college, humanities major or not, is the automatic next step, it becomes just a continuation of high school. Sure, you have a BA, but it has to come with the thinking and communication skills. With Obamacare in, I hope kids will give themselves some time to think and plan, regardless of what major they chose.

    • Yar

      I want two years of public service between high school and higher education.

      • J__o__h__n

        I think a year of doing anything productive before going to college would be a benefit.

        • Ray in VT

          I’ve often thought that having kids do a year of farm work would help a lot of kids get their acts together.

          • Yar

            I bet that down vote came from a kid.

          • nj_v2

            It’s interesting that hovering the cursor over the “^” votes reveals the screen name of the voters, but not with the “v” votes.

          • Ray in VT

            Yeah, I noticed that. I wonder why it’s set up that way.

      • Emily4HL

        I agree with both of you. Obligatory public service could be a great help to young people and the country. But generally, anything to get us out in the world. Even if you spend a year working as a waiter, its real work, and you learn about yourself.

      • Expanded_Consciousness

        Stop trying to control people. Two years of indentured servitude is un-American.

        • Yar

          Better than people out of control. It is part of their education, I believe it is giving our country to the next generation. We have to prepare our next leaders and citizens if we want to survive as an country. It is very American! College debt is my definition of indentured servitude.

          • Expanded_Consciousness

            If an 18 year old wants to have a two year ‘gap year’ before starting college at 20, that is their choice. You’re autocratic requirement that all 18 year-olds be put into ‘labor camps’ is un-American.

          • Yar

            I am willing to allow those who desire to postpone their service until after their higher education. Working together for the country is part of citizenship.

          • Expanded_Consciousness

            Then you should quit your job and go work for the government’s motor vehicle department or something. Controlling people’s lives is un-American. Ask for volunteers. Compulsion is for autocrats and tyrants.

          • Yar

            Government has aspects of control, democracy is self regulated control by our society. You seem to think individual rights trump society. Individual rights are granted by the whole, and governed by our elected leaders though laws. We can collectively decide to compel citizens to participate in public service should we so chose. Democracy is not a function of tyrants or autocrats. Why do you use inflammatory language? I am a proud American: please refrain from attacking my citizenship just because you disagree with my proposal.

          • Expanded_Consciousness

            You must attend education when you are a child. You don’t have to as an adult. If we Americans are not free, then our enemies have won.

        • J__o__h__n

          Better to have it in the form of loans for the decade after graduation.

  • JBK007

    Humanities is crucial for the development of critical thinking, writing, etc. It should be covered better in high school to give students the foundation necessary to think and succeed in college where they should be developing “real-world” skills applicable for today’s economy and society, rather than spending 4 years philosophizing between keg parties…..

    • Expanded_Consciousness

      High school is too young. You need to challenge those over 18 with complex philosophical questions. Not just assign ‘Catcher In The Rye’ in high school or junior high school.

      • JBK007

        I wonder about the age question? Higher education in other countries, particularly Europe, produces students who generally come out of high school MUCH more highly educated in the humanities, and with a broader world view.

      • JBK007

        And tough to think much progressive thinking will come out students who are now more concerned with their Facebook status, tweetable phrases, and the lives of celebrities….

        • Expanded_Consciousness

          Don’t be an age-ist. Young people are more progressive than the old guard.

          • JBK007

            Perhaps, though I guess it depends on how one defines progressive. Also on whether you believe the humanities, as a separate major, will allow graduates to find employment in our ever-changing economy and society?

            Ultimately, what does society need from people coming out of our higher education system these days? The economy is changing, and the world is changing, so we need to keep up with the times, or be left in the dust….

            Either way, I have to laugh at myself when I hear “kids these days” come out my mouth; probably stems from having taught inner-city middle school and high school recently, and wondering about the relevance of teaching Shakespeare when half the students could barely speak “normal” English (smh)…..

  • Rick Hunter

    As one who spent a more than 20 year career teaching philosophy, now maintaining pipe organs and running a B&B with my wife — Are the humanities important today?? ABSOLUTELY! I have created no jobs, in all probability, but I know I have contributed to the ethical thought processes of those doing more economic or technical work. Even today, by contributing to people’s musical joys and their comfort in traveling, we do more than simply enjoy our own talents, but use them to contribute! I once said to a nurse in a hospital that I taught philosophy to a lot of nursing students, and she responded, “That’s important!”

    Also the “teaching to think” and problem solving skills learned in humanities and arts studies serve people well in being e.g. creative and successful in business and technical fields. One of my friends who was a history major spent a successful career in computer software designing! Breadth and creativity are very valuable, both in teaching and in dealing with people , problems and difficult business situations!

  • phk46

    “Humanities” is a very broad term. Are we talking about Philosophy, or Art History?

    The bottom line is: after you get this degree, what do you intend to do, and what additional training do you intend to get?

    Some humanities degrees may qualify you for an entry level position on a business track, or sales, mktg, or in politics. Otherwise you will need yet another degree, in education, business, law, perhaps medicine. (But I think going into medicine without a science degree is problematic.)

    And how much opportunity is there on your chosen track? What are the chances that you will find a job, pay off your loans, and support yourself. (There just aren’t very many jobs in anthropology or art history.)

    I expect that there are enough people interested in humanities who can pay their own way to fill all the available slots. So we should direct subsidies somewhere else.

  • Yar

    Wendell Berry said “there is never too much knowledge but there is too much schooling.”

    The cost of education is not the real issue, the quality of education is the problem. We are going through the motions and not delivering quality in the final product. We need more accountability in all areas of our economy.

    • nj_v2

      “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”
      —Mark Twain

  • AC

    you know, in the end, i’m surprised he doesn’t realize he’s in the middle of form versus function argument. i believe in both…

  • d clark

    To follow Ed Conard’s way (“the taxpayer shouldn’t subsidize the humanities) is to follow the way of barbarism.

  • nj_v2

    Unless i missed it when i stepped away for a moment, what’s not been mentioned is the role of a broad, general education in educating and empowering individuals in their role as citizen.

    The founders regarded public education as a cornerstone of a functional democracy. As citizens in a representative democracy, we need to understand the political and social infrastructure within which we live our lives. This encompasses history, politics, economics, etc. Even more broadly, we need to understand the natural world in which we live, and on which we are dependent.

    Unless people understand the mechanics of the systems which influence and even control their lives, they can’t participate as well-informed citizens, and worse, they will be subject to the manipulations and control of those who would abuse the system.

    • TomK_in_Boston

      Exactly, what you “missed” is the transformation of the great system you describe into trade school for the corporate elite.

  • Sam

    I am a professor of computer science in the Boston area. I have two thoughts about this discussion. First, I’ve seen a number of students who come into CS because of the jobs and the money, but it turns out not to be the right field for them — either it’s a mismatch of skills, or a lack of real desire to learn the field, or a mix of both. I’d rather have a great anthropologist than a mediocre computer scientist.

    Second, I wonder if it’s just harder to measure the value of having anthropologists and historians in society. It’s easy measure the monetary value of science and technology, but humanities may also be helping us in very economically important ways that are just harder to quantify. For example, by helping decide what kinds of projects and technologies to pursue and how to implement them in a way that works for people.

    • hellokitty0580

      Hear, hear!

  • TomK_in_Boston

    The problem is our toxic, greedy, entitled corporate management. Once they were happy to hire a non-specialst and have them learn, and it worked great. Now they need that round peg to immediately fit perfectly into that round hole, or no job. They want to convert our once-magnificent higher ed system into trade schools for their workers.

    Having said that, they do have the power. Regardless of whether you can do the job with an English degree, if they won’t hire you, you’re screwed.

  • Expanded_Consciousness

    Our most promising students should decide what field they want to go into for themselves! Who are you to tell them what to do? There is an arrogant presumption that you are going to tell 18 year-old adults what they should spend THEIR entire life doing.

  • AC

    i’m getting irritated; why one or the other?

  • http://hammernews.com/ hammermann

    No doubt there should be more science, cause we are probably the most scientifically deficient country in the world- what, 35% don’t believe in AGW. But big story is the criminal price of universities- when I went to prominent (now most selective) Ivy League school several decades ago it was $4000/ yr- I can’t even wrap my brain around total college costs of $250,000. It is an obscenity; moreover instead of being able to default on student loans without hassle (since let’s be honest, Univ should be 90% free), now they are undischargeable loans even in bankrupcy. Crazy. Cheap and easy college is what BUILT American power, economic dominance, and the middle class.

    The great Matt Taibbi covers this all in latest:

    http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/ripping-off-young-america-the-college-loan-scandal-20130815

  • Yar

    Innate talent is a misnomer. Talent is largely a function of time. To give time to any discipline one needs positive feedback during the pursuit. We need to offer positive feedback to all educational experiences. When saying talent is inborn, it is really saying position in society is God given.

    • Expanded_Consciousness

      Some brains are wired better than others. Effort isn’t everything.

      • Jeff

        I would suggest reading Outliers…it explains how anyone can be talented at anything (barring some physical limitations) by putting 10,000 hours into a task. It really is about dedication and effort.

        • Expanded_Consciousness

          You misread the book.

          • Jeff

            I took it as the idea that people have love for an activity so they completely dedicate themselves to it…what did you take out of it?

          • Expanded_Consciousness

            In an article about the book for The New York Times, Steven Pinker wrote, “The reasoning in ‘Outliers,’ which consists of cherry-picked anecdotes, post-hoc sophistry and false dichotomies, had me gnawing on my Kindle.”

            Jackson was disappointed in the book’s lack of new ideas, noting that it merely expands on the concept that “you have to be born at the right moment; at the right place; to the right family (posh usually helps); and then you have to work really, really hard. That’s about it.”[19] He was also skeptical towards Gladwell’s arguments for the 10,000-Hour Rule by countering that The Beatles’ success had more to do with “the youthful spirit of the age, the vogue for guitar bands and a spark of collaborative chemistry”.

            Regarding the book, Paul McCartney, former member of The Beatles, said in an interview on August 6, 2010:

            [...] I’ve read the book. I think there is a lot of truth in it [...] I mean there were an awful lot of bands that were out in Hamburg who put in 10,000 hours and didn’t make it, so it’s not a cast-iron theory. I think, however, when you look at a group who has been successful… I think you always will find that amount of work in the background. But I don’t think it’s a rule that if you do that amount of work, you’re going to be as successful as the Beatles.

          • Yar

            What is love, other than positive feedback? What the show is really about is what as a society we are willing to give positive feedback on. Some think we should not be giving positive feedback to people interested in the humanities.

          • Yar

            You won’t spend the time if you don’t get some reward for your effort along the way. We push many more people down than we lift up. Encouraging passion is everyone’s job. Where your greatest passion intersects with the world’s greatest need is where you should invest your time.

        • Ray in VT

          Effort and dedication certainly do help, but some people are just wired or skilled differently.

          • Jeff

            True, sometimes it takes more effort for one person vs another person…or an individual may never dedicate themselves enough to be good at an activity.

          • Ray in VT

            Sometimes it takes unequal effort to reach the same level between two people, but some people will never reach the level that some are able to achieve easily no matter how much hard work and dedication they put in. I think that that is just a fact of the differences that exist within the human population. Some people have more natural abilities, while others have natural disabilities.

  • CindyC Barnard

    AC my sentiments exactly. Arts and humanities are simply integral to whatever university degree is sought.

    And I love the last callers statements – go for what you’re passionate about.

    If the universities are worth the money the students give them (and I think we’ve got evidence many are NOT), counselors will help leverage the student’s passion with various ways to help find work and make money when they graduate.

  • Yonder Moynihan Gillihan

    I’m a theology professor at Boston College—a historian of ancient Judaism and Christianity, steeped in humanities from the cradle, thrilled with my work, and tortured by the current state of liberal education. My ambivalence comes from what I see as a crisis in rigor in the humanities. Non-academics who mock the humanities as “soft disciplines” aren’t entirely wrong: many students seem to expect to get an easy A for showing up—they’re often shocked by the fact that my classes are really really hard. At the same time universities unintentionally contribute to this expectation by reorienting liberal study around things like student “experience,” or by offering a set of ideological answers rather than requiring students to grapple with questions themselves and formulate answers that derive their value from having been gained through struggle, conversation, and debate.

    Consistently my best humanities students are from the hard sciences and business, disciplines that require assiduous work. I wish the STEM work ethic were taken for granted in the same way among humanities majors—yeah, the big questions are worth asking, but good answers require the same devotion and hours as Orgo, chemistry, and so on.

    Ed’s point about the power of STEM careers to improve human conditions is excellent, but wonder where these humanitarians will develop and hone a mature sense of morality that compels them to devote their STEM skills to the common good rather than to personal enrichment; the latter seems to be the more common, or at least more conspicuous, route that these folks take.

    A fantastic payoff for humanities education is that our disciplines require living with permanent ambivalence: the answers that we offer for history, the interpretation of texts, the meaning and purpose of art, are never settled. This unsettled state requires understanding a variety of perspectives on any given issue, accepting the limited nature of evidence, and embracing the fact that answers will change inevitably and constantly. But, again, coming to this state of maturity requires very very hard work.

    • Markus6

      My guess is that the humanities done well is harder than the sciences because there are no clear cut answers – there are wheels within wheels. Doesn’t mean there aren’t things that are right or wrong, but they’re harder to find and prove. I’ll use immigration as an example. There are pros and cons on both sides, but most people think in binary – it’s either entirely right or wrong. I think there is a right answer in this case, but I understand the downsides to what I think is that answer.

      What bothers me most is the profs I’ve known socially are usually dismissive of the nuances that don’t favor their side – usually with some snarky comment. I don’t want to make too much of conversations at social events, but I’ve know these people for many years and they are remarkably consistent in their one sided views.

      There has to be a quote somewhere about how dumb it is to be so sure of your position that you don’t need to acknowledge an alternate position. Seems natural in teenagers, but so many never grow out of this.

      Ok, I’m off my soap box.

    • JBK007

      Dear Professor Gillihan,

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment. Perhaps students are taking the term “liberal” too literally! ;)

      That said, I am not of the mind that living in permanent ambivalence is good for one’s health or spirit (unless I extrapolate this to mean living more in synch with nature, so being “unsettled” is actually being nicely in tune with cycles that ultimately rule us).

      I also see that the very foundation of morality has been highjacked by the unscrupulous.

      And, though I enjoy debating these questions in my mind, seeking gainful and meaningful employment these days doesn’t afford me too much of that luxury….

  • Jeff

    I would like to see fewer humanities subsidized by the tax payer and shift those funds into the STEM fields. STEM jobs create more jobs, they come up with ideas and plans and new businesses more often than any of the liberal arts majors I know. Look at the big companies in the last 15 years…Google, Apple, Amazon…yep most of them were started by STEM majors. I agree that we still need content, if you want to write the next Harry Potter book, create a fantastic movie or TV series or even design amazing graphics and logos then go for it. The jobs of tomorrow will involve creativity…either technical or content generation…most other jobs will be automated and go the way of the dinosaur.

    • Yar

      J.K. Rowling was on public assistance while writing the first Harry Potter book. She has returned much more back in taxes on royalties. Was it a good investment? I think so. .

      • Jeff

        Do you think she learned how to create the world of Harry Potter in a structured college environment? My point was about removing subsidies from the current college environment (for humanity majors) because I don’t believe it offers an advantage for creative fields. J.K. Rowling lives in the UK, they have their own support systems and laws…they have a much more homogeneous population and they are welcome to make their own laws without my input (I am not a citizen of the UK).

        • Yar

          Are you saying we are not currently teaching the humanities as well as we should? How do you define community? Does it include storytellers? What are the essentials of economy? I don ‘t believe England is more homogeneous than the US. All education is a transfer of time and wealth across generations. That is what makes us civilized.

        • Expanded_Consciousness

          Yes, she graduated from Exeter in 1986.

          Subsidies go to PhD students and professors who do contribute to humanity.

    • Coastghost

      The quality of “STEM imagination” shows signs of being markedly inferior to that derived from humanities studies. For evidence, I cite the present sorry state of Hollywood: technical expertise and high production values commonly are ALL that appear on movie screens today, barren of most recognizable forms of human appeal (witnessing pyrotechnic flashes and rumbles of explosions hardly requires education at all, STEM or humanities: in SF flicks I now routinely pull for the aliens against the glib, clueless, facile humanoids).
      Purely technical expertise breeds sterility: and with sterility, pursuit of purely technical expertise loses its appeal shortly after it’s lost its meaning.

      • Jeff

        Micheal Bay went to Art Center College of Design…he’s a liberal arts product. The STEM people creating the things in movies are being directed to do so by someone in the liberal arts…I think your point shows a decline in liberal arts ideas rather than anything about STEM people. As I said your point is simply backing up my point…STEM creators make technologies that are dominating everything (Google, Apple, Amazon)…liberal arts creativity is declining as you can see in your local movie theater with sequels being the most common type of movie today.

        • Coastghost

          I do not know that the remaining Hollywood studios execs are liberal arts types, nor do I know them to be STEM types by and large: all I see is that Hollywood films commonly exhibit production values derived from digital technologies, bereft as their “stories” are of “the human element”.

          • methos1999

            It’s really the MBA’s driving this decline. Hollywood films are a business, and are in fact an export. So the MBA’s are pushing movies that are very simplistic, but will do well overseas and make lots of money. But per usual, they’re fairly shortsighted, as there’s been analysis showing the multiplying of big budget “tent pole” movies could very well implode the industry (more eggs in fewer baskets, so to speak).

        • J__o__h__n

          I’d actually blame the lack of creativity evidenced by mainstream movies as a result of MBAs, marketers, accountants, and assorted demographers making movies to target the audiences they predict will bring in the most money. Market forces don’t always result in superior products. Sequels aren’t even the most common now. They have to redo the origins of the superheros so as not to exclude the potential audience that hasn’t seen the original.

  • TomK_in_Boston

    Perhaps more students should major in “creation science” or “intelligent design” or climate denial. That should lead to lots of technological advances and job creation, right :)

  • JBK007

    Couldn’t the STEM majors incorporate humanities classes into their curricula? It’s not necessarily an either/or scenario….

  • hellokitty0580

    Frankly this whole idea angers me. This dichotomy projected between the necessity of science and technology over the humanities is entirely false. It goes against human nature. Some people are geared more toward numbers and others are geared more toward words, and even that is way too simplistic than what I believe. Would anyone say that the works of Da Vinci are irrelevant because they are based in the humanities? Never! Da Vinci is most well known as an artist, but in order to create more realistic paintings he dissected the bodies of animals and humans which left people with the first accurate anatomical drawings of our time! An artist delving into science? What??? Creativity begets ideas and the more we enrich our lives with writing and music and art and biology and numbers and architecture the more neurological connections we make and the more intellect we gain and the more well-rounded we are and society expands and the list goes on and on!

    We need to create a world in which both utility and the humanities and everything in between and on the outside converse and are nurtured. If the only of things of worth in this world can only be valued as they pertain to GDP, then I mine as well kill myself because this isn’t a world in which I want to live. That may well seem extreme, but the people who want to see less emphasis on the humanities would be diminishing many of the things that make life bearable. What ever happened to intrinsic value and the worth of something simply because it makes people happy or brings pause to an otherwise hectic world?

    • TELew

      You also have the fact that DaVinci was an incredible engineer. He designed dozens of mechanical devices, and is credited with having made an actual working lion automaton.

      The truth is, this dichotomy is only a recent historical development. Men like DaVinci, Copernicus, and Newton were thoroughly educated in both the science of their day and the humanities.

  • MsAbila

    Studying humanities is essential and teaches you the ‘love’ of learning that will follow you through your life. Critically studying any field in the humanities will help you understand the world around you and make you in your profession a far more considerate person.

    The most interesting and valuable people I’ve met were the ones who earned degrees both in humanities and some other technical profession. To be successful in today’s world, we need the humanities even more to understand each other, our various cultural backgrounds and approaches to life.

  • raidernationdna

    This entire subject reaches to the very core problems facing this country, so I have to throw in my two cents. First, I am completing a PhD in Philosophy, I hold an MA in English, and an MPA in Public Administration. I teach for five colleges part-time in order to make a “living.” I teach English and entry level composition for all of these schools. My first comment is that I feel that technology and this insistence that we focus on business and technology has allowed, and even encoraged, our students to “get by” without having to learn how to write or think. If you do not believe this, read over the typical college freshman’s paper to see how much influence texting has had on their writing.

    I have freshman sit through my literature classes who are almost offended when I teach early literary texts that call for social action. The basic fundamental of education for most teachers should be based on teaching someone to become a better human being, but, instead, we are particularly focused on business and monetary investments that have often gone against these virtues and ethics taught in the literary field and humanities.

    Secondly, students that come through my classroom lack the basic essentials to become well-rounded, ethical humans. We lack the ability to communicate with others outside of the language of money. Colleges have become businesses, and they often invest more money in football than money to take care of people who work for them. Overall, this is a sad commentary on our inability to want to teach future generations how to “live” as ethical humans. After all, the race for business to create jobs and money is one of the major reasons that we do have unethical banking structures, systems, and people who participate in those fields that take advantage of the people who seek to better their lives through them.

    Without “free thinkers” we are threatened to become a society of drones who merely do things they are told to do. We cannot rise to face the problems that are approaching concerning rising sea levels, change of environment, the loss of rights that is taking place across the globe, genetic modification of food, and the continued push to become a competitor through investment and not a learner through listening and having empathy. We are in trouble, and only well-rounded humans are going to be able to stop the system of abuse we have created.

    There is a serious battle going on between acadimics and mass media, and, so far, mass media is winning.

    “Books are the carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a stand still. They are engines of change, windows on the world, lighthouses erected in the sea of time.” ~ Barbara W. Tuchman (American Historian and Author)

    • jefe68

      As George Carlin once said and I paraphrase: ”The owners of this country don’t want a population of well informed, well educated population capable of critical thinking as it’s against their interest.”

      I’m inclined to agree.

      • raidernationdna

        Thank you, jefe68! Exactly why Carlin was on point!

      • geraldfnord

        Yes, they want (at most) training…and one thing many have been trained to do is to say ‘I value education, rational thought, and creativity’ when they really don’t, parents and bosses and preachers and pols alike…..

    • Rick Hunter

      Bravo and keep at it! See my comment far earlier, and go for it, “teaching someone to become a better human being.” ethics is all and without it, “the love of money is the root of all evil!”

  • skelly74

    Has anyone read “The Unique Individual” by Johnson O’Connor? The theory claims people are born with natural aptitudes and nurturing these aptitudes will bring the greatest success and happiness.

    As an industrial psychologist, O’Connor tried to identify innate aptitudes and tests to measure your suitability to specific professions.

    In the course of this discussion, some people will not be suited to pursue STEM education and professions…and if they are overly insistent and pursue a profession or subject of education successfully, they will ultimately come to a point of misery.

    There is of course the curse of the multiple aptitude individual. They will have more options and frustrations finding their ultimate suitability.

    An interesting note: O’Connor claimed English vocabulary as the most important aptitude to predict success, and incidentally, the only aptitude that can be improved.

    • John Cedar

      I see a lot of people, myself included, that grow tired of their first chosen interests (and often their second and third) and move on to other things. People change. Preferences change.

      I don’t know where English falls into the mix. But I have noticed that people with an attention to detail, who are still able to keep a big picture in their minds, are very prolific. If that means successful? OTOH…social climbers seem to do very well at attaining success in their own way, with very little other talent…save for being attractive in some people’s eyes.

  • Brad Smith

    This isn’t that complicated. Society has its goals, individuals have theirs. As a society, we have to determine if we need more of a STEM focus. If we do, we have to influence it at the governmental, academic and commercial levels. Children and their parents have to decide what is best for them based on several factors including interest, aptitude, expense, and short- and long-term financial needs and goals. There is no fundamental right to a particular type of education. Debts should be repaid because, ultimately, if they aren’t, we are all bearing the cost.

  • 228929292AABBB

    I work in a technical field with a degree and a licence but find that Shakespeare and Socrates often guide my work and certainly the portions of my work involving clients or subordinates. I think human nature has not changed much, and to an extent this is sad, but regardless a survey of the best observations ever made about the human experience is relevant to all activities and times, and that’s what a proper study of the humanities really is. So it seems pretty clear that the way to go is with a good undergraduate degree in the humanities and some advanced study in a focused field during a master’s program, or perhaps the inverse. The problem at this point is just getting one’s hands on the half million dollars legally and without a life of indentured servitude. So in large measure, this show like so many others can’t reach a useful conclusion until the previous shows on the exploding cost of college have been completely addressed. For as long as we are content to demand lofty accomplishments of our young while providing only impossible means of reaching them there’s really no point in hashing out the details.

    • jefe68

      Well said!

  • sharlyne1

    Completely agree!!! Unfortunately we’re in a perfect storm of increased student debt, inflated cost of living, and decreased earning wages. No bueno. Let the bubble burst and the tidal wave drown all the greed.

  • tbphkm33

    At the end of the day, all those STEM drones pecking away at their keyboards still need a humanities person who can critically think to guide them.

    • hennorama

      Not to mention to write the technical manuals for the products they produce.

      • tbphkm33

        I was mainly thinking along the lines of say Apple with their iOS environment (and the subsequent Android copy). STEM workers could have come up with the tech side of the equation, but that would have been it. The true potential was flushed out by humanities people, like Steve Jobs and others.

        Look at MS Office as an example, on the backside the programming makes sense to computer people, but for the average user trying to get something accomplished, the software is cluttered and convoluted.

        • methos1999

          You seem to be under the misguided impression that STEM oriented people have no creativity or critical thinking skills; ie are “drones”. My reply is this:

          1. Engineering is actually art – art that uses the precise tools of science and math to create.

          2. Steve Jobs in “the lost interview” (check it out on Netflix) once said programming taught him how to think and recommended everyone should have to learn to program at some point in their lives.

          3. Math & science are both tools, and unless you’re a professional mathematician or scientist doing purely academic work, are just tools – so of course some level of humanities are necessary. But on the flip side, having a PhD in philosophy won’t do much good if you can’t balance your checkbook. Both STEM & humanities are needed to be a well rounded person. And of course the giants of the Renaissance, perhaps personified by Leonardo Da Vinci, had both in abundance.

    • StilllHere

      Do you have any data to support that or just your humanity-driven thinking-hat? Sorry if that’s to sciency for you.

  • Expanded_Consciousness

    With all the technological innovation coming in the 21st century, with all the promises and perils, the constructive and destructive possibilities, the last thing we need is a democratic population filled with humanists, and informed and critical thinkers. All we need is blank human techno-laborers to fill in for a few more years before computers, robots, and AI can take over the economy. All you need is a simplistic high school education and then some technical and technological skill. Just program the kids to program.

  • John Cedar

    To what are all the comments referring to when they invoke the term “critical thinking skills”, (which they apparently had to learn in a humanities course)? Isn’t that something everyone innately develops during the toddler years and continues to develop as they mature? I recall seeing it graded on our report cards during my grade school years.

    Personally, if I had to pick one or the other to concentrate on, I would prefer to be formally educated in the STEM course work and self educated in the humanities, rather than the other way around.

    • Jeff

      You make a great point, I know of almost no one who goes to college for liberal arts and then studies STEM fields in their spare time (website programming, computer programming, engineering, etc.). Meanwhile, nearly every single engineer I know (and I know a lot of them since I am one) have tons of interests in the humanities outside of formal learning. Many are history buffs, artistic (musicians and painters) and even create their own original content (writing books and screen plays). You can and should have both but I see almost no effort for a humanities/liberal arts major to try to learn or understand a STEM field while the STEM majors go out of their way to get a grasp on the humanities along with their STEM field day jobs.

      • J__o__h__n

        How many of the history buffs are as knowledgeable as trained historians? I suspect it is about the same level as my knowledge of science from reading on my own.

        • Jeff

          Quiz me, I happen to be a history buff…you explain the Laplace transform and I’ll give you a response to your history question. We can see who knows more from their non-formal learning…BTW, what was operation Barbarosa? How about operation Torch?

          • J__o__h__n

            You would probably get it right, but historians don’t spend most of their time taking quizzes. I get most of the science questions right on trivia night, but it doesn’t make me a biologist.

          • Jeff

            I believe the technical term “knowledgeable” can be defined as knowing facts about some particular subject matter. I was looking forward to a good discussion of historical question and or debating some historical facts…but what do I know, I’m just an engineer right?

          • J__o__h__n

            Technically, I wrote “as knowledgeable.”

          • Jeff

            The same level as your knowledge of science right? BTW, Barbarosa was the German invasion of the USSR during WW2 and Operation Torch was the Allied invasion of Italy. Still waiting on that explanation of the Laplace transform…or I’ll even take a concrete example of the theory of relativity.

          • TELew

            Actually Jeff you were wrong about Operation Torch. It was the British and American invasion of North Africa in November 1942. I just looked it up.

          • Jeff

            Well the initial invasion of Italy began with taking out North Africa first (which was held by the Axis at the time) I was thinking of it as one full operation but technically, yes, the actual Italian mainland invasion was a separate event called Operation Avalanche. At least we know I’m not just looking these things up but instead going off my memory.

          • TELew

            I didn’t know the name of the operation, but I am assuming you are talking about the invasion at Anzio, and not the invasion of Sicily.

            I was a World War II buff as a kid, and that is what led me to be a historian when I went to college and graduate school.

          • TELew

            Here’s a concrete example of the theory of relativity–the difference between how one hears sound when on a train vs. how one hears sound when stationary beside the train track.

            Another example–how one experiences time when in space flight, versus how one experiences time when on earth. This one relates to time travel, in that the person in space flight experiences time at a much slower pace, in effect “traveling in time,” where as a person on earth experiences time at a faster rate, including the various biological changes that the body incurs. Hence, the space traveler could return to earth and still be relatively young, while the person on earth will in fact have aged significantly.

          • TELew

            Jeff, I fully believe you are a “history buff.” That’s a far cry from being an actual historian. You undoubtedly know a plethora of historical facts, although I have to wonder if that extends past knowledge of World War II. By contrast, a historian understands the significance of the facts, how events came about, how they related to other events, and their significance in the grand scheme of things.

            I do not disrespect your training as an engineer–I have two of them in my own family. And I confess I have only a layman’s understanding of the sciences and related matters. But I do have an interest in them, although all of my education has been in the liberal arts.

          • Jeff

            Any good history questions for me?

          • TELew

            Like I said, who was Barbarossa, and why was he called that?

            Again, no cheating!

            (I knew the answer to the question about relativity because I am interested in the history of science, as well as just knowing how things are. I remember a good bit of the science and math courses I took in college, and I continue to supplement that with various programs on TV. Lord knows you aren’t going to learn anything about history watching the “History” Channel these days!)

          • Jeff

            It’s a movie starring Willie Nelson.

          • TELew

            I didn’t know that.

            Actually, Barbarossa was Frederick Barbarossa, Holy Roman emperor in the latter half of the twelfth century. He drowned in a river on his way to the Holy Land during the Third Crusade, resulting in the Crusaders losing his sizable army which was a major reason the Crusaders did not recapture Jerusalem.

            Barbarossa– “barba” is beard, “rossa” is red, so he was called Barbarossa because of his red beard.

          • TELew

            Operation Barbarossa was of course Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. I think Operation Torch was one carried out by American forces in North Africa in 1942, but it’s been a long time since I’ve thought about it.

            I have no idea what “the Laplace transform” is.

            Do you know who Barbarossa (the one the operation was named after) was, or what “barbarossa” means? (no cheating!)

      • Asuka

        But being a history buff is a different thing from training as a historian. Majoring in history isn’t about learning facts about the past; it’s about learning something of the methods of those who produce the knowledge that ends up enriching the lives of history buffs. It’s about learning about research and the work that turns archival discoveries (and so on) into an understanding of the past.
        Isn’t the idea is that *these skills* are fungible or inherently valuable? It’s just a different thing.

    • Markus6

      It is a good point. Why would people assume students learn critical thinking skills in a humanities curriculum? If included in these skills are objectivity, the ability to weigh arguments rationally and even an openness to new ideas, it may be in a course title, but from those who say they went the humanities route, hard to see anything but a single and closed minded view of things.

      At least the STEMS are trained to look at data objectively.

      • J__o__h__n

        What data are you using to support that conclusion?

    • anamaria23

      True,but it can work both ways. One of my sons is an engineer, but is also attracted to the arts. Another was an English, philosopy major but now excels in computer systems having learned “on the job” and credits his progress to ability to think creatively.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=32606540 Brian Belgard

    I’m confused by the inclusion of business majors within the “STEM” acronym. It’s been my experience that learning a cursory amount of accounting or marketing isn’t particularly useful when you get into the job field.

    It’s my experience that most company’s would usually prefer to hire entry level employees with strong critical thinking and communication skill sets, and teach them the specific skills of the job.

  • myblusky

    Didn’t the Buddhist get if right already? Life is about balance.

  • Suttdenn

    You’re talking about Issiah Berlin’s prototypes of the fox and the hedgehog. Need a future program on http://www.rushkoff.com/present-shock/

  • Causal

    Is this hour not available for podcasting? This has been happening a lot lately.

    • J__o__h__n

      There must be too many humanities majors on staff.

    • JoshuaHendrickson

      Yeah, apparently On Point decided to kill its downloadable podcasts, which has made the show a great deal less accessible to me and others.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Cacimbo-Smith/1142235495 Cacimbo Smith

    Is talking in a low whispery voice a requirement to major in philosophy.

  • twenty_niner

    On a calculus final I had, the last question was to derive the binomial equation, not just write it, derive it, not easy to do in 15-20 minutes under pressure, and nothing to do with calculus; it was purely a test of logic and reasoning. What about that doesn’t require critical thinking? Any humanities majors are welcome to try.

    Here’s another one: prove that climbing a stair climber, which is stationary, requires the same power output as climbing a ladder, where one’s potential energy is increasing with every step (given the same pace – steps/min/m).

    There seems to be an idiotic notion that a math or engineering degree simply entails memorizing a bunch of formula and poking numbers into a calculator. You might want to ask one of the many (in my school over 60%) of the STEM majors who fail out and go off and get history degrees what the real story is.

    • methos1999

      Agreed, the discussion of humanities teaching people how to think is coming across as is math & science doesn’t also teach people how to think.

      A great irony I find is that Steve Jobs actually mentioned once in an interview that all people should learn how to program because it teaches them how to think. Meanwhile other people are citing him as the example of the need for the humanities in tech…

  • JoshuaHendrickson

    The humanities had damned well better continue to matter, or we might as well pack it in as a species. Business, work, toil–these are the things we do to stay alive. Books, arts, philosophy–these are the reasons we stay alive in the first place.

  • Michele

    Not trying to be dense but aren’t humanities majors taxpayers, as well?

    Someone below asked if balance wasn’t the key. I couldn’t agree more. I’m an architect and throughout my career I have worked with a wide breadth of people and have found the most dynamic workplaces have people with varying backgrounds. Additionally, I have worked with many, many engineers and the stereotype is true for many, not all, as there are real issues with communication and being able to articulate their ideas. It’s a huge hurdle with clients…that’s why we need all types of people.

  • JoshuaHendrickson

    MInd you, I’ve nothing against studying science, tech, etc. We frankly need lots and lots of scientists in this country. What I object to are the masses going to business school, into finance, etc. They’re leading us into a dark age.

    • Don_B1

      A particular example of how people are mislead into the wrong professions, at least for the betterment of society as a whole, is the way physics majors transferred into business school so they could apply their mathematical skills in writing software that picked out how to combine variously good mortgages into ‘tranches” which would get a high grade investment rating when they were really just junk. That lead to the great financial crisis of 2008 and intensified the Great Recession so that those who could escape the consequences could also pass the costs on to the peons who were taken in by the great mortgage overleverage scandal.

      Those physicists needed more understanding of the human condition or at least better ethics.

    • myblusky

      No kidding. Universities churn out these MBA’s as a way to make money for the school. No other reason. And from what I’ve seen, they just a bunch of cookie cutter grads always looking for the bottom line so they can make a few people at the top rich. The majority don’t really seem innovative.

      I have nothing against business classes and wish that my major would have encouraged me to take business classes so when I was self employed as an artist I would have known many of the things I had to figure out on my own. Again – everything is about balance.

  • methos1999

    One of the things I’ve always found interesting is how engineering & technology are lumped with science & math. An engineering professor in college once told us engineering is actually art – art that uses the tools of science & math to create.

  • http://www.PsychicServices-FrankMichel.com/ Psychic Services Frank Michel

    Nowadays, corporations either don’t want to train anyone or will only train minimally their new workers. Where did training programs, partnering with colleagues, and mentoring for career development go?

    Corporations want to pay people peanuts so the top officers can “earn” (joke!) million-dollar salaries. How can young people pay off their college debt on today’s meager salaries when they can’t even pay the rent? Why are banksters always trying to double interest rates on student loans? Who’s getting rich here?

    The humanities (including the arts) are valuable to anyone in a technology field so science is humanized. And the humanities need science, business, and computer courses to round out one’s education to become more “employable.”

    It’s not a perfect world or balance, but the humanities and science need to complement each other both in one’s education and career. It’s more than just about money . . . it’s about education, ethics, ethical lifestyle, community, compassion, and global harmony and prosperity.

  • Sy2502

    The humanities are based on the past, and as a wise man said, those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. Unfortunately from my personal experience humanities are badly taught, mostly as just data to memorize and regurgitate, with little emphasis on their current relevance. The only exception I’d make is regarding philosophy, which I find has been rendered obsolete by science. Many philosophical conundrums and paradoxes would be clear and obvious when seen through scientific eyes. “If the barber shaves only all the town men who can’t shave themselves, who shaves the barber?” Only philosophy could come up with this insipid and ridiculous paradox (answer: in real life the barber shaves himself, or maybe doesn’t shave at all, either way the paradox doesn’t exist) and waste years of brain power over it. And I don’t think our young people should waste their time this way.

    • Don_B1

      The paradox you reference is analogous to those used by mathematicians such as Gödel to explore the ability of mathematics to prove theorems about the nature of mathematics and what a computer can be designed/programmed to compute.

      The paradox you call out is a slight rewording of the paradox discovered by Bertrand Russell in 1902. He was investigating the nature of set theory and looked at how sets can be classified into one of two categories. The first contains sets that are not members of themselves, while the second contains sets that are members of themselves. Mr. Russell then asked which category the set of all sets that are not members of themselves belong, and came up with the paradox you describe. Please look up Russell’s Paradox and do some deeper thinking about the consequences of this in regard to the ability of mathematics to describe the real world.

      You will find that it is not an “insipid and ridiculous paradox” when you think about it on a deeper level.

      That is an example of what the humanities offer to scientific inquiry and how each question usually has deeper levels than one might initially think.

      • Sy2502

        You precisely missed the point I was making. Thank you for your patronizing tone, I am very familiar with Godel and Russel, thank you for bringing it up, I had them in mind when I wrote the post. I will point out to you that science has already shown that empirical results are far superior and more reliable than pure philosophy an mathematics. One of these examples is Quantum Physics. Most people don’t know that the formulas, if solved purely mathematically, give nonsensical answers. So what scientists do is called “renormalization” where they throw away the nonsensical numbers and sure enough, what’s left is exactly what’s observed in practice. That’s because, as I already stated in my previous post, nothing has been shown superior to the scientific method. That’s why philosophy is obsolete. Now, do you have anything useful to say or just patronizing platitudes?

    • John Cedar

      Perhaps the barber is a female of non-Italian decent or a eunuch?

      Or…I shaved my GF before and I am not even a barber.
      Hey! Look at me! I’m “critical thinkin’”!

  • Asuka

    Where is the evidence that business degrees add anything either to personal satisfaction or to the economy?

    • myblusky

      Well the MBA programs add to the universities bank accounts, but that’s about all I can see.

      • Asuka

        Maybe MBAs have more in common with Masters in Creative Writing than is generally thought.

        • myblusky

          I actually think they do. I Master’s in writing is only needed if you want to teach or if you have money and time to burn. Otherwise – the only way you learn to write is by actually writing. Probably the same with running a business – you can only prepare so much and then you learn by doing.

        • Swashbucklr

          I have an undergraduate Business degree, and I’ve always called it the English degree of the BA of Science.

  • TELew

    As a humanities major myself, I have done a great job of “not making a fortune.” On the other hand, I have not done a very good job of paying off my student loans.

    Nevertheless, I believe that a humanities education (not necessarily major) is essential to members of a participatory democracy such as our republic. Otherwise, the oligarchs and the mob rule.

  • TELew

    I think that perhaps the most important thing about the humanities is that they give a firm groundwork to a person living in a participatory democracy such as our own.

    The notion that a liberal arts education is simply a device by which one can live a meaningful life trivializes the importance of studying humanities. Traditionally studying the humanities taught a person how to be a good citizen. It was not about fulfilling ones own destiny but rather being able to contribute to society. The humanities teach critical thinking, which means not taking things at face value but rather dissecting their principal parts seeking for underlying meanings. In politics, this meant being able to understand the motives and backgrounds of politicians and their proposed policies. The humanities also guarded against the notion that one was responsible only to oneself.

    The Founding Fathers were solidly grounded in both the humanities and the science of their day. Indeed, in the 1500s “science” was still a branch of philosophy, and it was only in the 1800s that this dichotomy of science vs. humanities emerged.

    If the Founding Fathers had not had a solid grounding in the humanities our country would never have been created. If we lose our grounding in the humanities, then we will lose our country.

  • sickofthechit

    Actually one can apparently separate business from moral and ethical study as is evidenced by the likes of Bain (bane) capital. charles a. bowsher

  • liminalx

    I think therefor I am…

  • Mike Moody

    Why are you trying to differentiate between the two? They are interrelated. One speaks to the other.

  • Mike Moody

    Historically, most people in the past who would be considered “STEM” people were very active in the humanities area. Think of Aristotle, Socrates, Da Vinci, Bacon, Newton.

  • Meg Mott

    I remember when Mark Edmundson published a piece in a 1996 Harper’s Magazine, defending the humanities against the apathy of his Univ. of Virginia undergraduates. He and Allan Bloom did a lot of damage to the credibility of the humanities with arguments about “better students” and higher truths and the need to protect these rarefied places from the unthinking masses.

    In that same issue, Earl Shorris described teaching Plato and Nietzsche to low-income students in New York City. Shorris believed that the humanities gave a person the ability to be truly political, to make claims for justice and choose freedom over servitude. We need people like the late Earl Shorris, not Edmundson, to defend the role of the humanities in a democracy.

    • TELew

      Yes, Edmundson was a really poor choice for a defender of the importance of the humanities. He impressed me as the stereotypical “egg-head” out of touch with the “real world.”

  • Paul Deuth

    Why the fuss from the right-wing on this subject? Is it more funding for science and engineering they want? Or is the goal to de-fund the humanities, using the power of our government?

    Businesses, large corporations, might sponsor university scholarships to develop talent specific to their needs. We do need, as a nation, more funding for education. But what I think is going on here is an attempt to control what our young people might learn. This would be insidious. But since there isn’t really a problem here, and since the available solutions are not offered, I wonder, “What’s going on?”

    Mr. Conrad kept going back to the poor in the third world, you recall. Does he prefer more of the US economy be offshored to “help” those poor? There is something stinky about this.

  • RonShirtz

    I think its sad that the stress is to wait to study the subject of humanities at college, as if it is a check on a list to mark off, instead of a life-long commitment that starts as a child at home.

  • Eric Silva

    Many of the callers talked about how their humanities studies taught them “how to think,” or something similar.

    I think a major like computer science teaches students “how to think” far better than degree than the humanities. You don’t need to pore over Proust to learn how to think.

    That said, I think that there needs to be more emphasis on writing skills in college for those in STEM majors. You can still get a 4.0 in computer science or engineering with very poor writing skills.

  • Jeff

    Thank you for a very well thought out response. I agree we need both scientists and liberal arts. I think when someone is dedicated and driven to be the best I have no problem with them going into any subject they choose. The issue I have is that we tell kids to go to college and we end up churning out a lot of liberal arts/humanity students who have no direction and no job opportunities when they leave college. Should tax payers be asked to subsidize those students instead of the STEM majors who jump into the job market and start to contribute to society using their degrees immediately? The conversation needs to be about a cost benefit analysis, there are limited tax payer dollars going towards higher ed…lets spend them more intelligently. I would agree we need a certain number of humanity majors but perhaps we should have a limit how many of those degrees are given tax dollars, giving those dollars to higher performing students in their field.

  • 228929292AABBB

    You can tell from moment one what a condescending pompous windbag Mark Edmundson is as he tries to twist the words of others with a wave of the hand and a pat on the head for those of us less intelligent than him (everyone). That tone reminds me of the President dropping his g’s so the unwashed masses can understand. This guy accidentally demonstrates the exact problem with the study of the humanities as it exists now.

    • JoshuaHendrickson

      Just because you are less intelligent than Mark Edmundson doesn’t mean everyone is.

  • Swashbucklr

    Wow. Shocked to hear Republican Ed Conard suggest that taxpayers/government be allowed to decide what college majors grant and loan recipients are allowed to choose. That seems very much counter to the party line of freedom from government intervention, and sounds more like the way China or the USSR went about the business of education.
    Then again, maybe the use of the color red to represent Republicans is more than just irony…

  • Daniel Gill

    Everything I am studying now in the humanities as an English major.. I am almost done my undergraduate degree.. the government is paying my way through school after destroying me basically.. They ruined my spirit as an adolescent.. I wasn’t physically capable of getting up in the morning and going to class. So now I am making up lost time.. anyway.. everything I am studying now I could have studied and would have loved to have studied in damn high school. This should not be a university education. I don’t even think university should exist. From high school to college and then you should be DONE. There shouldn’t be anything after that. I am one person of a generation who is nearing 30 who hasn’t finished a degree and isn’t working yet. Because the structure of higher education makes no damn sense!

    I’m talking about restructuring university education such that it is mandatory go through humanities.. anthropology, philosophy, english, liberal arts, etc.. starting in middle-school to high school.

    I suffered sleep deprivation, and bullying, etc going through high school. Eventually I was hospitalized for depression and nervous breakdown, and while I recovered didn’t go to college and then entered University as a mature student, wishing I could have been doing everything I am doing now, BACK IN damn HIGH SCHOOL. I was totally disinterested, wasn’t challenged, etc.. in high school.

  • Daniel Gill

    Humanities should be over by the time you reach the age to vote. See what I did there?

  • Guest

    I’m also a big supporter of autodidactic education. Give adolescents the freedom to study what they want to, and guide them as they grow their interests. You can’t teach everything all at once in high school alone.

    if they had more freedom to study what they want to, they can learn better as they get absorbed, and become professionals. allow these kids to follow their passions.

  • Daniel Gill

    You get no sleep to go to school by the time you reach adolescence

    So you don’t care about what you are learning because you’re too tired and getting tortured.

    I’m also a big supporter of autodidactic education. Give adolescents the freedom to study what they want to, and guide them as they grow their interests. You can’t teach everything all at once in high school alone.

    if they had more freedom to study what they want to, they can learn better as they get absorbed, and become professionals. allow these kids to follow their passions.

    By the time you reach the age to vote, you should have already studied all of Shakespeare, Paradise Lost, the romanticists, Victorian era, and so on

    and you should have a good knowledge of anthropology, other cultures, other religions, and so on

    so that when you vote, you’re already educated

    when you get to college, you should be studying something technical, like how to be a teacher, how to be a doctor, etc.

    but while you’re in high school there should be lots of opportunity to branch out into interests of your own, follow your passions, to prepare you for college.

    • The Well Dressed Man

      We can’t study a technical field right away in college because we didn’t actually learn any useful skills in high school. Too many liberal arts and not enough STEM at the high school level has contributed to a profound shortage of skilled professionals in the US. We’re importing doctors, nurses, and engineers from abroad as fast as we can.

      • Don_B1

        It is not so much that STEM courses are not given enough time, it is more that the teachers are not proficient and often convey subliminally their dislike of mathematics, which students easily pick up (the students can also get that from their parents at home also).

  • The Well Dressed Man

    What branch of engineering? What field are you working in? (Mech E student here)

ONPOINT
TODAY
Jul 23, 2014
In this Saturday, July 12, 2014, photo, migrants walk along train tracks and boxcars after getting off a train during their journey toward the US-Mexico border, in Ixtepec, southern Mexico. (AP)

Crisis at the US border. What do Latinos on this side of the border have to say? We’ll ask our special roundtable.

Jul 23, 2014
Actor Wallace Shawn attends special screening of "Turks and Caicos" hosted by Vogue and The Cinema Society at the Crosby Street Hotel on Monday, April 7, 2014 in New York.  (AP)

From “The Princess Bride” to “My Dinner with Andre “and “A Master Builder,” actor and writer Wallace Shawn joins us.

RECENT
SHOWS
Jul 22, 2014
Lt. Col. James Howard Williams, aka "Elephant Bill," is the hero of Vicki Constantine Croke's new book, "Elephant Company." (Courtesy Random House)

We’ll travel to the jungles of Burma for the remarkable true story of Billy Williams—aka “the elephant whisperer”—and his World War II heroism.

 
Jul 22, 2014
Smoke rises after an Israeli shelling at the Shijaiyah neighborhood in Gaza City, Monday, July 21, 2014. The top Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip signaled Monday that the Islamic militant group will not agree to an unconditional cease-fire with Israel, while Israel's defense minister pledged to keep fighting "as long as necessary," raising new doubt about the highest-level mediation mission in two weeks. (AP)

The escalated Gaza offensive. We’ll get the views from both sides and the latest developments.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Our Week In The Web: July 11, 2014
Friday, Jul 11, 2014

As we prepare for a week of rebroadcasts, we reflect on Facebook posts, misplaced comments and the magic of @ mentions. Internet, ASSEMBLE!

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Two Former Senators, One Fix For US Democracy?
Thursday, Jul 10, 2014

Former US Senators Tom Daschle and Olympia Snowe joined us today with a few fixes for American political inaction.

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Future Radio Interns Of America: On Point Wants YOU!
Thursday, Jul 10, 2014

On Point needs interns for the fall. Could YOU be one of them?

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