by Rebecca Stibrik
When it came time for me to choose the degree I wanted to pursue and the job I eventually wanted to have, I had an interesting conversation with my father. He was of the opinion that I should become an engineer, as they are always able to find jobs. If that career did not appeal to me, he could see me as either a laser eye surgeon or a biologist working to find vaccines. However, I am not fond of math, and biology holds no appeal for me. My father, an aeronautical engineer, did not see the value in my pursuit of a degree in graphic design. He did not understand how I would be able to find a job with such a degree that was part of the arts and humanities. Much of the public would agree with my father’s opinion about my choice in degree because they feel there is neither money nor value in the arts and humanities.
Many people simply do not realize the value of the arts and humanities. As a result, these disciplines are often underfunded, preventing students from gaining the valuable skills and experience that are necessary for the job market, and for a student’s personal development. Colleges and universities exemplify this problem the most. Many claim to support the humanities, but do not show it in their budgets. Colleges have a tendency to create little robotic students focused on science and mathematics who forget what makes them human. Everything that is logical and technical is emphasized, and everything has to have a formula. Imagination and creativity are lacking due to their undervalued nature. The misconception is that not much work goes into creativity, and creative work is a waste of time and potential. Plain and simple, colleges are slighting their students. There is, however, a remedy for those who choose to act. While the arts and humanities programs of universities are unfortunately undervalued and underfunded, they do have merit. Many useful things are learned due to the humanities. Thus, universities should be giving more of their funds to these departments.
What many do not realize is that the arts and humanities are necessary for a person’s personal development. These disciplines create and foster unique skills that help a person to succeed in life in a way that the sciences just cannot provide, something that is even recognized by biochemist Mary Sue Coleman and computer scientist John L. Hennessey in their article “Lessons from the Humanities and Social Sciences.” They go so far as to claim “These disciplines play an important role in educating students for future leadership and deal most directly with the human condition,” something that is not often recognized (par. 3). The arts and humanities allow a person to improve upon their creativity and problem solving skills, which are needed in the current job market. Additionally, English falls under the humanities, and skills honed in an English class can be applied in some way to just about any job. While it may not be an absolute requirement of a job that one has good reading and writing skills, it is certainly preferred by employers. The humanities also teach valuable communication skills. With the humanities, students learn various ways to convey their ideas, which is particularly important in today’s job market.
In spite of the badly needed skills they develop, arts and humanities are continually being cut. Often, these areas take budget cuts before any other department. This is in spite of the fact that they have smaller budgets to begin with, as Robert N. Watson describes in his article “The Humanities Really Do Produce a Profit.” Watson describes how at his University, for example, the humanities are being cut, going so far as to say that “The dean of humanities’ office at UCLA warned a few months ago that the proposed budget would require programs in this division—already the leanest in staff per faculty—to fire most of their lecturers and teaching assistants, making [their] curriculum unsustainable” (par. 10). How can a student be expected to get a well-rounded education and wide range of skills when the department needed to teach these skills could barely afford to pay its teachers? The answer is simple: they will not, which reflects very poorly on the university that awarded them the degree. What will happen is that these students will be lacking in critical skills, and thus will have a more difficult time finding employment.
While many have claimed that humanities have little to no value in the job market, there are actually many viable job options with a degree in the arts and humanities. Communications is becoming an increasingly desirable degree and skill as the world becomes more global and more focused on the media. Now more than ever, there are many markets and types of media in which to display information. Information is displayed to promote sports, movies, and social awareness, just for example. As a result, someone who can display that information effectively becomes highly valuable. Graphic design is another emerging field with many job prospects. Graphic designers have the important job of designing pretty much everything a person sees, from an ad for a product to the box it comes in, from book jackets to movie posters, and many other things. The skills needed in order to create and communicate effectively lie in arts and humanities education, and the unfortunate lack of funds and recognition for these programs prevents many from being able to take full advantage of these jobs, much to the disappointment of numerous students.
Generally speaking, most people are under the impression that the arts and humanities are unnecessary and lacking in value. Many believe that the only value in the arts and humanities are the joy they provide for the participant, as Stanley Fish claims in his article “Will the Humanities Save Us?” People tend to think that nothing profitable can come from this knowledge. They simply do not see the value in things like art or writing skills, and are not able to understand how they can be useful in daily life. What the public needs to realize is that the arts and humanities are very important, and are a largely untapped resource. Many valuable skills are either made or developed by the humanities. There are jobs that can be found with these degrees. Moreover, there are successful, well-rounded individuals who have succeeded because of these departments. Investing more in the humanities means investing in the future, and creating better-rounded, better-prepared, skillful group of people. The sooner universities and the public realize this, the better. Because really, who wants a bunch of inhuman, robotic shells for employees or students?
Coleman, Mary Sue and John L. Hennessy. “Lessons from the Humanities and Social Sciences.” Washington Post. Washington Post, 14 Nov. 2013. Web. 25 Mar. 2014.
Fish, Stanley. “Will the Humanities Save Us?” The New York Times. The New York Times, 6 Jan. 2008. Web. 25 Mar. 2014.
Watson, Robert N. “The Humanities Really Do Produce a Profit.” The Chronicle of Higher Education. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 21 Mar. 2010. Web. 25 Mar. 2014.