Love, The Old Man: A Word of Encouragement

Blog Column: 

Last year there was a major scare that drove people away from the humanities in, well, droves. We’re still seeing the aftermath and are recovering from that bit of absurdity.

I’m sure you’ve heard the rhetoric that fueled it:

“English is an easy major.”

“You’ll never get a job with a degree in history.”

“The sciences and business are where it’s at if you want three square meals a day.”

Yeah, that’s all worth about as much as what you’ll find in a horse pen once the horse has left.

Aside from the statistics indicating that, no, humanities don’t earn less than the sciences on average (read more here), it has become increasingly clear that other people cannot communicate eloquently or otherwise make their ideas intelligible without concerted training.

Most importantly, though, is that old saying: “Those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it.”

Rather than give you a treatise on recurring historical themes and various examples, just consider this fact: People in the middle ages and before were just as intelligent as we are now. We are just better educated.

This is an issue that my father and I hark back to on occasion.

Our basic thinky-thinky bits haven’t changed much, if at all, since then. As the old man put it, “How else to explain the maddening persistence of tribal impulses and superstitions that still drive so much of our history?”

So, what makes a progressing, thriving civilization if societies governed by reason aren’t natural?

The answer is critical thinking. That includes interpreting motives, philosophy, governance, and considering the repercussions of actions.

Critical thinking is taught by the humanities. The sciences and business just teach you how to improve and maintain systems, like machines and human bodies. They don’t teach you how to improve people, with the possible exception of psychology.

The humanities might not always be in the highest demand, but neither will the sciences. The market for degrees always fluctuates. However, unless we want to backslide into tribalism and superstition, the humanities will always be needed and that by itself should be a ray of hope.

That and the fact that we still get to go to fancy events like the Oxford Summer Seminar in the above photo.

Song of the Week: “Miracle!” by Paramore.

Kind of a throwback, I know, but I couldn’t think of another lively song to encourage you to follow your vocation. Then again, that might be because the song’s been stuck in my head all day…

Anyhow, enjoy and have a good week!




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Love, The Old Man: A Word of Encouragement | Commonwealth Honors College


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