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 The study of the human condition has been replaced by the study of the condition of technology.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