Central Standard
9:28 am
Tue July 2, 2013

The Value Of The Humanities

Credit Chelsea Gomez / Flickr - CC

Last month on Central Standard, we discussed the importance of Science, Technology, Engineering, Month (STEM), but today we are here to reverse all that, and argue for just the opposite.

A new report calls on the government and our schools to invest attention and resources to art, literature, foreign language and culture. Many say that these are the things which give the sciences they’re meaning, and that we need to recover our commitment to them before it’s too late. Our three guests today are Dr. Virginia Blanton, Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at UMKC, Wayne Vaught, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at UMKC, and Dr. Gerald Early, a professor of modern letters at Washington University.

“Part of the problem,” says Virginia Blanton, “is the assumption that students in the STEM fields have a direct path to a job, whereas students with a humanities degree won’t end up with a job.” However, she completely disagrees with this attitude. In her opinion, “due to the broad nature of a humanities degree, there are actually lots of jobs open to students.”

“That’s part of the reason the report commissioned by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences was created in the first place,” says Gerald Early, a member of the commission.

Each guest also spoke of the importance of reading, writing, and critical thinking skills in the modern workplace.

“Many people don’t know how to write well,” says Gerald Early, “I know many students that make lack precision with their language. The ability to convey meaning in language is extremely important.”

And according to Dean Wayne Vaught, the humanities has always been an important part of a full college experience. “UMKC has had a long history of integrating the humanities into the medical school curriculum . . . because you’re not just treating a disease; you’re treating a person.” And he believes that is something many medical and hard science students have been struggling with.

However, Dr. Early was quick to emphasize that educators and teachers can also be part of the problem. In the report, one of the goals involves strengthening support for teachers, which would “encourage the creation of a Humanities Master Teacher Corps to complement the STEM Master Teacher Corps.”

And Virginia Blanton believes that professors aren’t getting the information out there about the wealth of jobs available to humanities students.

Hopefully, with the support of Dr. Early, and educators like Virginia Blanton and Wayne Vaught, the tide will turn back around on humanities. Because without them, the world would look much bleaker.

“In any oppressive society, the first thing they take away is the arts and the humanities, because they provide too many dangerous ideas,” says Dean Wayne Vaught. The humanities can set people free.” Many people seem to forget the liberation aspect of liberal arts.

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