September 12, 2014

old books

What role should the Humanities play in the 21st century? Credit: Cassidy / Flickr Creative Commons

If understanding the humanities is even key for technologists, college professors are increasingly going to have to make that case. Since the 1970s, fewer and fewer students have opted to study English or French or history. After all, what sort of job will those majors get you?
 
Students – and their parents – are afraid that without a math or science degree, they'll be scrambling to earn a living. However, according to Stephen Greenblatt, an English professor at Harvard and author of The Swerve: How the World Became Modern, “all of the actual statistics suggest that’s not a significant factor in the real world."
 
“For 3,000 years, human beings have created works of literary, philosophical, artistic expression,” says Louis Menand, also an English professor at Harvard and author of The Metaphysical Club: A Story of Ideas in America. “Does anybody think that being educated could possibly mean knowing nothing about…what it means to be human?”
 
Both Menand and Greenblatt argue that students need to be exposed to ideas and views that help them understand themselves, as well as the world around them.
 
“On which basis are the decisions going to be made, that we will have to make as human beings over the next 100 years, over the next 20 years?” asks Greenblatt. "We’re at the point now in which we can redesign human beings by altering our genes. These are ethical, moral, philosophical decisions that have to be made on some basis."  

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Louis Menand, Education, Stephen Greenblatt, humanities, Harvard

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