by Halie Rydel
Saudi Arabia just granted citizenship to a robot. We are able to 3D print anything from teapots to guns. We can purchase cars that are able to drive themselves. Before we had all of this new technology, there were philosophers who asked questions. There were playwrights who created masterpieces. There were political geniuses who wrote their way to freedom. Society emphasized humane disciplines; philosophy, theatre, art, law, literature and history. Our society has increasingly become more and more technology motivated. People have lost sight of the benefits that come with studying the humanities.
“When you study mathematics you’re learning about math, but when you study the humanities you’re learning what it means to be human,” English teacher Mrs. Alee Cotton said. “You learn to relate to other people and have that shared human experience. I think the humanities as whole reflects on what that is historically and how that impacts your life and your choices,” Cotton continued.
As we have progressed as a species, our world has become dominated by technology. A large part as to why society values science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) more so than humanities is because it seems to have more monetary reward. Doctors, engineers and mathematicians are branded more successful than someone who becomes an artist, author or musician. People are less likely to pursue a profession in the humanities for these reasons.
Regardless of which career someone pursues, everyone can benefit from studying the humanities. The doctors or scientists who study the humanities are more likely to be more well-rounded in their careers. Individuals who study the humanities will be more apt to understand other people’s opinions, and have the ability to argue their viewpoint. Understanding the humanities will allow for individuals to argue from various perspectives as opposed to one narrow point of view. “I believe the doctors who study the humanities will be able to practice in a much more humane way,” social studies teacher Mr. Tom Baker said. The humanities is a broad scope to show and help people understand and accept that there are varying opinions out there.
“With this digital era where people are focused on science particularly, we’re losing this compassion, empathy and the ability to understand the other person,” social studies teacher Mrs. Jillian Roger said. Society places focus on data and achievement, and has begun to lack compassion for the other person. “We’re missing that compassionate piece, and I think that comes from the humanities,” Roger said.
The humanities is a platform to look at the same topic from different viewpoints. The same topics being co-taught by different faculty members allows for students to have varying perspectives, are therefore able to thoughtfully argue about their opinion.
“The humanities is about understanding the human condition,” Roger said. It helps individuals look at the world from a different perspective. Exposing yourself to these various perspectives helps you get a better sense of the world. Having a more thorough understanding of these perspectives enables you to be a productive member of society. “Knowing history is good, knowing math is good, but if you can have a better wholistic picture, it helps broaden your perspectives in a lot of ways,” Roger said.
“The humanities’ motto is when they’re doing, they’re learning,” Baker said. “I really believe that, as part of education,” he continued “It allows for students to be actively engaged as opposed to just sitting and taking a copious amount of notes. When students are actively participating, they are able to become a font of knowledge,” Baker said.
“The humanities teacher should be able to say ‘I don’t know the answer to that,’ and I like that,” Baker said. The humanities leave room for different interpretations. This encourages students to think critically and form their own opinion on matters. The students then become the arbiter of what that knowledge or answer should be. “The teacher then becomes the facilitator that says ‘Are you sure you’re going in the right direction?’’’ Baker explained. The humanities teacher uses their knowledge to guide students accordingly, as opposed to just giving them what they believe to be the right or wrong answer.
“In politics today, we don’t understand what dialogue is,” Baker said. “I think the humanities allows for you to have that dialogue in a safe environment,” Baker said. In regards to political matters, people do not listen to each other. A typical conversation regarding politics, or any varying belief for that matter, has a tendency to result in yelling rather than an intellectual conversation. “You learn how to present your opinion and to also listen respectfully to others’ opinion, not agree with, not become that viewpoint, but to understand why they stand that way. That’s why the humanities is so important,” Baker said.
The humanities can make for more creative and thought-provoking classes as well. Co-taught classes are about the same topic, but taught by different faculty members. For example, having a theology and social studies teacher, teaching the philosophy of evil. “Rather than saying we’re disparate perspectives, if you bring these things together I think you would have a sounder education,” Baker said. The humanities can be a platform for linking varying subjects together, to make for a broader view on subject matters.
“It’s the idea that as one discipline you can not fully understand the entire scope of an issue,” Roger said. The concept promotes different subjects coming together to discuss an issue from various sides. The idea of co-teaching classes would help students to use their strengths in different ways. Currently the only co-taught class at Marian is honors independent research.
Studying the humanities can add tremendous value to your education and value to you as a person. Humanities is for the humans. All humans. “I value the humanities because it opens one’s eyes to the human condition. It helps to make sense about your own existence, too,” Roger said.