Welcome to Laurie Goodman's blog. I use this space to share news and opinions about education and schools in Ridgewood, the state of New Jersey and the nation, in addition to other issues I'm personally interested in. I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, questions or opinions, too, by posting comments on any blog entry. Please observe basic courtesy -- keep your comments focused on issues, no personal attacks or bullying, please. Contact me directly at: lauriegood@mac.com

Thursday, February 26, 2009

In tough times, must the humanities justify their worth?

It may not surprise you to hear that I am a fan of a good, strong liberal arts education. I do not see college as "vocational training" or a means to a specific job. I am uncomfortable when teenagers are asked to decide what they want to do with their lives, by selecting a career path. So this article in the New York Times (2/24/09) was a bit troubling -- though not surprising -- to me.

The article discusses how in today's economy, the essence of a humanities education — reading the great literary and philosophical works and coming “to grips with the question of what living is for” — may become “a great luxury that many cannot afford.”

The article states that "the critical thinking, civic and historical knowledge and ethical reasoning that the humanities develop have a different purpose: They are prerequisites for personal growth and participation in a free democracy, regardless of career choice.

"But in this new era of lengthening unemployment lines and shrinking university endowments, questions about the importance of the humanities in a complex and technologically demanding world have taken on new urgency. Previous economic downturns have often led to decreased enrollment in the disciplines loosely grouped under the term “humanities” — which generally include languages, literature, the arts, history, cultural studies, philosophy and religion. Many in the field worry that in this current crisis those areas will be hit hardest."

I agree with Anthony T. Kronman, professor of law at Yale and the author of “Education’s End: Why Our Colleges and Universities Have Given Up on the Meaning of Life," who said, "the need for my older view of the humanities is, if anything, more urgent today,” he added, referring to the widespread indictment of greed, irresponsibility and fraud that led to the financial meltdown. In his view this is the time to re-examine “what we care about and what we value,” a problem the humanities “are extremely well-equipped to address.”

Read the full article by clicking here.

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