As the cost of an undergraduate education soars, does it make sense to invest one’s future in the humanities? Does a humanities degree pay off, one way or another?
Three years ago, we were all freshmen in Stanford University’s Structured Liberal Education program, a yearlong residential course that surveys the world’s most important works of literature, art, theology, philosophy, and history. From there, each of us went on to major in some humanistic discipline. Now we are seniors, and with our eyes finally up from all the books, we face the specter of life after graduation.
What have we gained? What will we take with us when we leave? What is a major in the humanities worth? Should we measure worth by career utility or by some other value—cognitive, aesthetic, moral? By our skills or by our knowledge?
No doubt many students can attack those questions and reach the same breadth of benefits outside the humanities. At Stanford, many of our classmates are scientists, social scientists, and engineers, and we have great respect for and interest in their studies—not only for their work’s clear practical applications but also for the ways in which those students grapple with the world. We argue that our education is just as significant, and just as irreplaceable, as theirs.
[ .. .]
Jackie Basu, history major and classics minor:
Most importantly, I know that I have taken the courageous path toward the striving life. Though I lost the security of a predetermined career, I’ve gained the freedom to mold myself a new one. This is a life I am proud of, that I claim as my own. And when Nietzsche tells me to do it again, ad infinitum, I will certainly stand by my choice.
[. . .]
Julian Kusnadi, philosophy and religious-studies major and human-biology minor:
The stakes of religious belief are ultimate, and the convictions that these stakes inspire become justifications for individual and collective actions. Given the powerful force and pervasiveness of religious conviction, especially with its foundation outside rationality, we should hardly be surprised to find religion embedded in modern global issues. Addressing the profound issues raised in religious studies may, indeed, be of similarly ultimate consequence for the future of our modern global village. Surely those stakes warrant the humble, humanistic study of what essentially lies beyond reason’s authority.
[. . .]
Karmia Cao, English major with a concentration in creative writing:
I study the humanities to become a cartographer of histories, a physician of social inequity, and a rocketeer of cultural fluidity. To stand truly independent and informed. And if I succeed, I will leave that button on my mantelpiece. And ketchup beside.
To read more interviews with the students, go to the source article.
The Value of a Humanities Degree: Six Students’ Views
June 19, 2014 | 0 Comments
Jackie Basu, Karmia Cao, Gregory Hertz, Julian Kusnadi, Miles Osgood, and Alex Romanczuk
Chronicle of Higher Education
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"The Value of a Humanities Degree: Six Students' Views"
June 5, 2011