Five Day. End of gym for the week, mostly because here in the Third World nation of Alibam, the gym isn’t available on week out. Part of that is religionist prejudice but part is simple capitalist greed. And the union of the two is Republicanist extermination of rights and lives. So very much the new “Natural” in modern Amerika.
But that’s not what I set out to blog. I ran across an article [Link] this morning entitled “Humanities teach students to think. Where would we be without them?” and it being fifty years since I was a Freshman I took some time and attention span to consider this.
The thesis is that (a) humanities are the “real” meat of college and (b) the modern factory college is eliminating humanites as useless and worthless.
I found the article a bit ineffective. It never quite engaged, nor made any compelling or convincing arguments. The best I could find was this paragraph:
“Eloquent defenses of the humanities have appeared, essays explaining why we need these subjects, what their loss would mean. Those of us who teach and study are aware of what these areas of learning provide: the ability to think critically and independently; to tolerate ambiguity; to see both sides of an issue; to look beneath the surface of what we are being told; to appreciate the ways in which language can help us understand one another more clearly and profoundly – or, alternately, how language can conceal and misrepresent. They help us learn how to think, and they equip us to live in – to sustain – a democracy.”
I freely admit that I am a nerd. I studied nerd stuff in college: majors in sciences and maths. But I still had to take humanities courses. And I have to admit that I didn’t learn much of what is listed above in those courses.
Thinking critically and independently: can’t say I learned this in any humanities courses. Definitely in the science and maths courses, but not so much in the humanities. If anything it seemed that what the humanities pushed was group-think and that was so EXTRO that it would never stick.
Tolerate ambiguity: missing as well. Again, the science and maths courses taught it as inherent and implicit.
Both sides of an issue: same again. The two sides thing came home in Freshman Calculus course with Newton and Leibnitz.
Look beneath the surface: this one is a maybe. One of the humanities I took was philosophy. So that sorta got at this one. But it got big coverage in the science courses.
Language: Are we talking about grammar and syntax and composition? Because I learned that writing lab reports and journal articles. Not literature. Literature did teach the hiding and misleading part, of course.
Democracy: this one is a puzzler. I have heard it all my life but observation indicates that it is inaccurate. And the people who led up to the present were the ones who had the advantage of a humanities education.
Not saying humanities aren’t beneficial. For people who like studying them, it’s great. That’s why colleges have majors, so you can learn a lot about the stuff you like. And I enjoyed my humanities courses. Except the grammar and literature ones. They were crap. Obstacle courses. People who want to write nerd articles (as a necessary evil) don’t want to spend time and effort learning how to write essays and poems. So poor (or no) connection.
But I learned a lot from my anthropology and philosophy courses. I learned that humans are a lot less smart than they think they are (anthropology,) have self-damaging beliefs (anthropology,) and kill people who are smart (philosophy.)
But not everybody can be a nerd and study science and maths.