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Why Humanities?

    Recently, Forbes listed Art History as one of the least profitable graduate degrees (Dill). Although Art History is only one area of study in the humanities, why would anyone find value in a humanities degree?
    Until the Scientific Revolution severed the ties of religion and science, these disciplines were studied side by side. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) and the humanities are not the polar opposites they are frequently made out to be, but, rather, share many connections. Scientific knowledge and techniques have a limited shelf life (Albert). Humanities studies require the skills of critical self-reflection, adaptability, and independent learning.
    There is a difference between knowledge and information. Information can be accessed and recalled quickly, particularly in this digital age. Information is the what. Knowledge requires the why. Science seeks the how, and the what, but the why must be understood as well (Americanacad). After all, it was the artistic study of human anatomy that
lead to many discoveries in medicine.
    Science has a cultural impact. Creative minds in philosophy or metaphysics have and continue to impact the medical field not just in psychology, but in methods of education, as well. Approximately half of all medical students at Stanford participate in a program called Medicine and the Muse. In this
 program they use art in a variety of ways to become better doctors (White).

    Critical thinking skills require analysis and discernment of information in an instant world of social media. Analysis and discernment lead to knowledge, which in turn creates more questions. Problem-solving is a skill used across fields, but the study of humanities conditions the practitioner to the possibility that there is more than one way to solve a problem. This kind of innovation and creativity are highly sought after assets in the business world where complex skills are needed for success. Students of humanities are trained to think of multiple approaches to a task. Furthermore, the knowledge of foreign languages and cultures are important to effectively compete in a global marketplace.
    Humanities also involves
the study of varied ways of effective communication and collaboration. Sophie Gilbert, cultural staff writer for The Atlantic, wrote that “not everything can be reduced to a data point” (Gilbert). Tom Perrault is the Chief People Officer of Rally Health, an innovative healthcare company that hires tech-savvy personnel. In a salvo across the bow of modern business practices, Perrault noted that the skills of creativity, empathy, listening, and vision cannot be replicated by computers (Perrault).    
    Just as the market is now a global one, so is society. In a world of increasing tensions based on differences, basic human similarities must be recognized. Citizens of municipalities, states, provinces, countries, and the world, have a role to fulfill their civic and cultural responsibilities. How can one know what those are if there is not a study and exchange of discourse?

     Humans fear those things which seem foreign or they do not understand. A child is afraid of the monsters in the dark because he or she cannot see clearly. Once the light goes on, the monster vanishes, but when the light is off, confusion, doubt, and fear return. Fear is a weakness, and humans do not celebrate weaknesses especially within oneself. Cultures and values unite people, and learning about differences beyond our immediate experience makes those differences less frightening (Gilbert).
    Science and technology are empty endeavors without the humanities. Nothing happens in isolation—no strides in technology, no political or social changes, no advancements or decline of cultures. Experts in both areas are vital to the human race. Actor John Lithgow expressed it best in his analogy:
    Picture a flower, a big bright flower in full bloom. The flower’s stem is STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). It is the superstructure, the infrastructure, the support system of the flower itself. The arts and humanities are the blossoms, of course—the source of the flower’s beauty, its fragrance, its identity, the visible mark of its health, and the wherewithal of the flower to reproduce itself. The stem is functional, strong, and essential, but pare away the blossom, and the stem has no purpose, no function, no value. In
time it will wither and die. It cannot survive the loss (Americanacad).

Works Cited

Albert, Dan. “Ten Important Reasons to Include the Humanities in Your Preparation for a Scientific Career.” Web blog post. American Associate for the Advancement of Science. N.p., 12 May 2011. Web. 21 Feb. 2017.
American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2012. “The Heart of the Matter” Report to United States Congress. Vimeo. American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 19 June 2012. Web. 21 Feb. 2017.
Dill, Kathryn. “Best and Worst Master's Degrees for Jobs in 2016.” Forbes. 12 Aug. 2016. Web. 21 Feb. 2017.
Gilbert, Sophie. “Learning to Be Human In an Era Fixated with Science, Technology, and Data, the Humanities are in Decline. They’re More Vital than Ever.” The Atlantic. 30 June 2016. Web. 21 Feb. 2017.
Perrault, Tom. “Digital Companies Need More Liberal Arts Majors.” Harvard Business Review. Jan. 2016 Web. 21 Feb. 2017.
White, Tracie. “Medicine and the Muse: Expressions Medical Students Creating Art.” Stanford Medical Magazine. Feb. 2017, Accessed 21 Feb. 2017.


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