The humanities add meaning to the most profound moments of our lives, but they also bear burdens—notably, the myth that their study is inconsistent with a practical and prosperous career.
Experience shows us otherwise.
Keen students of the humanities can think critically and analytically. They express themselves persuasively in speech and writing (often in more than one language), empathize, mobilize diverse individuals and talents in teamwork and problem-solving, and boldly range outside the box as leaders in education, business, economics, law, and media.
For those students (and parents) still uncertain about the value of the humanities in higher education, here are a few points to consider.
You may recall the story about a class of kindergartners who are asked to raise their hands if they are artists. All hands fly up amid peals of delight. Then, a class of ninth graders is asked the same question. Few or no hands appear. What happened to still those creative hands? Unfortunately, as they grow older students are often led to believe that delving deeply into the fine arts will result in an unreliable and unprofitable future. Students are steered to more “practical” endeavors like science, engineering, or business—as if knowledge were deposited like grain into sealed silos.
As college counselors, let us ventilate those silos with windows of opportunity. Each fine artist is imbued with imagination, curiosity, and creativity, and through these windows light pours into every corner of the mind. Albert Einstein declared: “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” Einstein is in the good company of Leonardo da Vinci, who, had he been practical and followed his father’s profession, would have become a clerk. Imagine the loss, not only to art.