The Importance of the Humanities

humanitiesI recently read an article on Kiplinger.com: “Worst College Majors for Your Career” by Caitlin Dewey. The author used data from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce and Payscale.com to develop a list of the top ten worst college majors based on those majors whose graduates face a combination of low compensation and high unemployment. Here are the top ten worst majors they listed:

  1. Anthropology
  2. Fine Arts
  3. Film and Photography
  4. Philosophy and Religious Studies
  5. Graphic Design
  6. Studio Arts
  7. Liberal Arts
  8. Drama and Theater Arts
  9. Sociology
  10. English

My gut reaction to this was shock. If our society values these disciplines so little, what kind of future awaits us? It looks pretty bleak to me—a society without humanity, truth or beauty.

But it’s not just employment futures discouraging students from studying the humanities. Elementary and secondary schools across the country have slashed their budgets by cutting arts and music programs. Some estimates indicate that more than 95% of school children attend a school where funding for arts and/or music have been reduced, and some schools in low-income areas have completely eliminated arts and music programs.

As state budgets become tighter and tighter, arts and music programs tend to be the first to suffer. They are perceived as being less important than reading, writing, arithmetic and science, but I believe that is short-sighted thinking.

The humanities, art and music included, are academic disciplines that study the human condition. We enjoy a society today that is more tolerant of other cultures and a variety of value systems than it was a century ago. We owe that greater tolerance to those academicians in sociology and the liberal arts who strove diligently in the 20th Century to increase awareness.

Also, unlike the natural sciences and their empirical methodologies, the humanities utilize methods that are analytical and critical. When we decrease student exposures to the humanities, we lessen the opportunities they have to develop their critical thinking skills. Humanities students are some of the best performers in verbal and quantitative reasoning tests. Moreover, employers consistently report that they are specifically seeking the kind of critical and creative thinking skills that a degree in philosophy or English could develop. Do we really believe these skills are less important?

As we plod forward and continue to trim the arts out of elementary and secondary school curricula, are we trading away a future rich with enlightened adults capable of thinking critically and creatively solving problems?

love humanities

Top 10 Reasons That Old Tortoises Separate

I read a story on the internet today about a pair of tortoises, Bibi and Poldi.  According to the story, Bibi and Poldi grew up together and eventually became a tortoise couple They’ve been together for 115 years, until recently that is.  Apparently something has happened to drive a wedge between the romantic reptiles.  As I read the article I found myself dwelling on what might have happened to split up the happy couple.  This is what I’ve come up with:

10.  Poldi finally decided to tell Bibi he didn’t like her vegan meatloaf.

9.  Bibi announced that after 115 years of doing all the cooking it was Poldi’s turn to cook . Poldi said forget it!

8.  Having heard each other’s stories well over 100 times, solitude was better.

7.  After a century of her being a little bit country and him being a little bit rock and roll, they just didn’t want to make music together anymore.

6.  Poldi mistakenly admitted that shell made Bibi look fat.

5.  Both Bibi and Poldi blamed each other for their poor performance during the Comcast auditions, which led to the Slowskys becoming the spokestortoises.

4.  Bibi finally got tired of Poldi flirting with every female zookeeper assigned to the reptile house.

3.  After working up the nerve for the last 100 years, Poldi finally asked Bibi if she would be interested in a three-way.

2.  Bibi announced that she wanted to explore her feelings for the other female tortoise at the zoo.

And the number one reason that tortoises separate?

1.  Poldi caught Bibi secretly reading “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

The Final Frontier

SpaceX Launch May 22, 2012

© SpaceX

Last week Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), an American company that designs, manufactures and launches American rockets and spacecraft, launched its Falcon 9 rocket into space.  Then again three days later SpaceX’s unmanned Dragon spacecraft became the first commercial spacecraft to successfully attach to the International Space Station.

Wow!  I can’t remember feeling like this since I was in grade school sitting on a linoleum floor watching any of the Apollo launches on a 19-inch black and white TV on a rolling AV cart.  It’s good to know that Americans are back in space, even if it isn’t NASA.

Burt Rutan said it well in a talk he gave back in 2006 when he said “It’s not good enough for us to have generations of kids that….look forward to a better version of a cell phone with a video in it.  They need to look forward to exploration.”

It’s good to see that entrepreneurs are stepping up and filling the gaps when it comes to space travel.  I don’t know if these ground-breaking commercial steps into space will lead to any type of space tourism that I could afford during my lifetime, but hope has returned, along with that childhood twinkle in my eye and my imagination.