A perspective on the liberal arts
If you've seen the musical Avenue Q, you might recall Brian's rhetorical query: "What do you do with a BA in English?"
Well, when a colleague shared the above tweet with me a few days ago, it served as a reminder that there are answers to that question (not that there weren't Philosophy majors at the Capitol that day, I realize). I've had the thought over the past four years that it must be a frustrating time to be a history teacher. After all, most of the 74 million people who voted for you-know-who took multiple years of high school history classes, right? So...where did all those history lessons go? What was the point?
Thinking back, most of us have similar memories of our high school history classes: memorization, dates, names, amendments, battles, and so on. Personally, it's hard to see how that represents liberal arts or—to use a word I prefer—the humanities in any particular way. I conceive of humanities as fields in which human behavior is central. Young people who learn how human behavior, motivation, and psychology shape just about everything are in a position to engage productively with the world around them. They will see the patterns that history tries to show us all—patterns that a lot of people have been apparently unable to piece together since 2016.
It's not just history, of course: literature, philosophy, and several other pursuits all interact with this same need. But in a time when we hear so much about STEM education—especially in the tech-centric Bay Area—the last few weeks/months/years are a rather forceful reminder of why the humanities deserve better in every way.
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