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The humanities: Out of date?
1 When the going gets tough, the tough take accounting. When the job market worsens, many students calculate they can't major in English or history. They have to study something that boosts their prospects of landing a job.
2 The data show that as students have increasingly shouldered the ever-rising cost of tuition, they have defected from the study of the humanities and toward applied science and "hard" skills that they bet will lead to employment. In other words, a college education is more and more seen as a means for economic betterment rather than a means for human betterment. This is a trend that is likely to persist and even accelerate.
3 Over the next few years, as labor markets struggle, the humanities will probably continue their long slide in succession. There already has been a nearly 50 percent decline in the portion of liberal arts majors over the past generation, and it is logical to think that the trend is bound to continue or even accelerate. Once the dominant pillars of university life, the humanities now play little roles when students take their college tours. These days, labs are more vivid and compelling than libraries.
4 Here, please allow me to stand up for and promote the true value that the humanities add to people's lives. Since ancient times, people have speculated about the mystery of those inner forces that drive some people to greatness and others to self-destruction. This inner drive has been called many things over the centuries. The famous psychologist, Sigmund Freud, called it the "unconscious mind" or, more familiarly, "instinct".
5 From the beginning of time, this inner aspect of our being, this drive that can be constructive or destructive, has captured our imagination. The stories of this amazing struggle have formed the basis of cultures the world over. Historians, architects, authors, philosophers and artists have captured the words, images and meanings of this inner struggle in the form of story, music, myth, painting, architecture, sculpture, landscape and traditions. These men and women developed artistic "languages" that help us understand these aspirations and also educate generations. This fertile body of work from ancient times, the very foundation of civilization, forms the basis of study of the humanities.
6 Studying the humanities improves our ability to read and write. No matter what we do in life, we will have a huge advantage if we can read complex ideas and understand their meaning. We will have a bright career if we are the person in the office who can write a clear and elegant analysis of those ideas!