Looney Tunes and the case for the Humanities

As many of you know, universities, once the defenders of the Humanities, are now setting them aside for STEM (science, technology, engineering & mathematics) education. The argument for such studies is strong, but the growing argument against the Humanities is weak. That we no longer require critical thinking skills and strong writing skills is painfully laughable. One has to look no further than the vast amount of disinformation and misunderstanding of science we find in both the visual and written media to know this is not true. In fact, I’d argue that given that the general public is woefully ignorant and suspicious of STEM, the study of Humanities is needed more than ever. The American Academy of Arts and Science agree. In a 2013 report on STEM they note:

The humanities remind us where we have been and help us envision where we are going. Emphasizing critical perspective and imaginative response, the humanities—including the study of languages, literature, history, film, civics, philosophy, religion, and the arts—foster creativity, appreciation of our commonalities and our differences, and knowledge of all kinds.

The report outlines the implications of our “narrowing” of education and how it is hurting the general population and work force. We are fostering a generation of students who lack basic writing skills and critical thinking skills, but much worse, we are losing the ability to empathize with others because of this narrowing of education. The study of the human condition has been replaced by the study of the condition of technology.

I am not arguing against STEM and what it can do for us. I love technology, and readily admit I have benefited from it but we need to remember that without the Humanities our civilization, no matter how technologically advanced, will be without its heart and soul.

I found this amazing short documentary on Youtube this morning. It’s on Chuck Jones, the man who gave us Looney Tunes. The documentary talks about his inspiration and rules for character development. Notice he doesn’t go into the science of filmmaking or animation. Jones is more concerned about the human condition and how this drives his characters to do what they do. This, better than any three-page essay, is a powerful argument for the Humanities.


The American Academy of Arts and Science  http://www.humanitiescommission.org/_pdf/hss_report.pdf

Author: sarij

I'm a writer, lifelong bibliophile ,and researcher. I hold a Bachelors in Humanities & History and a Master's in Humanities. When I'm not reading or talking about Shakespeare or history, you can usually find me in the garden discussing science or politics with my cat.

9 thoughts on “Looney Tunes and the case for the Humanities”

  1. What continues to be so disheartening is that downplaying the Humanities, and a Liberal education in general, is becoming more and more a bi-partisan point of agreement. I recall Obama irritating a number of folks when he undersold the value of an art history degree (though he later apologized for how it came off), and Gov. Rick Scott, of Florida, said something to the effect of, “Does the world really need more anthropologists?” Gov. Patrick McCrory of North Carolina openly wants to defund these programs, saying, “If you want to take gender studies, fine. Go to private school and take it.” Later he added, “How many PhDs in philosophy do I need to subsidize?”

    Attitudes like this are unfortunately mirrored by a decrease in students seeking those majors. We seem to live in a society where creativity and critical thinking aren’t prized as much as gaining a marketable skill, making a whole lot of money, then consuming, consuming, consuming. Part of me gets it. I understand people want to make great money, and studying philosophy, art history, or literature is being seen as a less viable means of doing so. But for me, while I certainly appreciate science and technology, and recognize the value in it, I don’t think we can truly progress as human beings without an equal appreciation for the Humanities.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Nicely said! I think we could come to a sort of balance. I too understand the push towards an education system that allows students to go out and earn a nice salary, Who doesn’t like nice things. And as you say it leads to consumers who help the economic growth of our economy. But this doesn’t mean that we should gut our study of the classics. A solid foundation of both science and art will lead to smarter, well read consumers.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Things have been going the same philistine way in the UK for some time; it’s the reduction of the human being to an economic unit, and the excising of anything that doesn’t appear to have a direct economic benefit. It’s a depressing who/what/when/where’ and occasionally ‘how’ mentality, with the ‘why?’ consideration dumped as somehow irrelevant.

    Now, the Chuck Jones short I did appreciate!

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Isn’t there a trend to add Arts to STEM to create STEAM? Perhaps we should add Humanities too and have SHTEAM and then we’ll start to edge back to the balanced programme of education that, strangely enough, once used to be the ideal us educators believed in before the politicians started meddling …


      2. Ah, the great STEAM debate! Yes, there has been talk of adding the arts, but the push back is strong. Sadly, the push back is coming from some of our most noted scientists who insist the whole idea behind STEM is to move us away from focusing on the liberal arts in order to attract young minds towards science. It will be up to like minded people to keep this debate going. I am trying to convince my local small college that they need a intro to Shakespeare class as part of their humanities curriculum. You’d think they would be receptive as Eric Rasmussen teaches at the sister university, but so far they are dragging their feet.

        Liked by 1 person

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