How Humanities Plays a Crucial Role in Teaching Higher Education to Future GenerationsBy Joy Liwanag
In the current landscape of higher education, a profound shift is underway, challenging the very essence of its purpose. The decline in support for humanities within academic institutions is not merely indicative of a shift toward a more technocratic society; rather, it is a pivotal component of a broader effort to mold America into a space more accommodating to corporate interests and their allies.
The Larger Agenda: Corporatization of Education
The assault on the humanities is a symptom of a larger agenda aimed at making America increasingly hospitable to corporations and their allies. The consequences extend beyond the realm of academia, raising questions about the kind of adults our educational institutions are producing. Are they being shaped to unquestioningly accept autocracy or even fascism if it were to arise?
The Value of Humanities in Shaping Ethical Citizens
In a world devoid of Socrates, Shakespeare, Rembrandt, and Bach, the absence of humanities diminishes our ability to critically assess societal imperatives from an ethical standpoint. The arts and humanities serve as the bedrock for nurturing citizens capable of understanding the profound ethical implications of corporate initiatives and authoritarian state agendas.
False Assumptions: Arts and Humanities vs. Human Decency
While it's true that an appreciation for the arts doesn't automatically make individuals morally upright, the converse is not accurate either. The absence of arts and humanities does not inherently foster goodness. Humans rely on a rich repository of narratives and values to counterbalance the dictates of the state and powerful corporations. Whether through Shakespearean plays or folk tales, Bach's compositions or grandmother's songs, these encoded values provide a counterforce against centralized controls that disregard humane values.
Decline in Humanities Majors: A Troubling Trend
Over the last decade, majors in English, social science, and history have declined by 26,000, while majors in computer science, engineering, and business have surged by over 140,000. The increasing trend toward technical education at the expense of humanities raises concerns about the type of university that is emerging and the values it imparts to its graduates.
A Bleak Outlook in Imagining the Future University
Visualizing the university of the future reveals a landscape dominated by computer programming, health sciences, and a dearth of departments like classics, German, and art history. Graduates from this envisioned institution lack diverse university-derived values and are instead equipped with a narrow focus on coding, accounting principles, engineering solutions, and healthcare provision for those with financial means.
The diminishing emphasis on arts and humanities can be viewed as part of a larger effort by dominant interests to shape a conformist society adhering to a narrow set of values. This shift prioritizes numbers and efficiency over a sense of social 'good,' training students to offer practical solutions without questioning the ethical implications of their choices.
A Narrowing of Perspectives in STEM
As universities increasingly prioritize STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, mathematics), the very fabric of academia is transforming. While some academics continue to challenge dominant values, the influx of instructors focusing on practical problem-solving reinforces the shift toward a technologically driven society.
This restructuring of university priorities is a long-term game, shaping the mindset of future generations. By channeling education toward circumscribed knowledge and glorifying answers over questions, institutions are subtly eliminating the potential for meaningful resistance to the existing structures of power.
Humanities as a Beacon for Societal Reflection
Shakespeare or Emily Dickinson may not enhance one's engineering skills, but their absence poses a risk of eroding the foundation of cultural and ethical understanding. A populace devoid of historical context, sociological analysis, and artistic touchstones becomes susceptible to conformity and manipulation by ruling elites.
The Urgency of Critical Inquiry
As universities increasingly become training grounds for a technologically focused society, the urgency of maintaining a space for critical inquiry becomes evident. The erosion of humanities threatens to create a generation with limited awareness of cultural heritage, historical context, and ethical considerations, paving the way for uncritical acceptance of authoritarian ideologies.
In a world where the humanities are relegated to the sidelines, the fundamental questions about who we are and where we are headed may go unanswered. The urgency lies in recognizing the vital role that arts and humanities play in shaping not just educated individuals but ethical and critically thinking citizens.