Importance Of The Study Of Humanities For A Society

A thief of money. A waste of time. A subject of mockery. These responses often answer the question, “Why do we study the Humanities?” Humanities degrees are portrayed in a negative way as a result of our increasingly technological world. Mandy Pipher, the author of Devaluing a humanities education ultimately devalues humanity itself states that “economic opportunities are informed by our cultural attitudes. . . Our socio-economic systems reward the skills we collectively believe will make real contributions to our lives. ” She argues that, sadly, we continually forget the foundation behind our successes as a society and that devaluing the study of Humanities threatens “the continued functioning of a democratic society”. She is absolutely correct; the study of Humanities is important and beneficial. The film “Dead Poets Society,” the article “Devaluing a humanities education ultimately devalues humanity itself,” and the video essay “The Dead Poets Society: Why we (don't) study the humanities” all provide different insights about how the study of literature and culture sustains a democratic society.

Contrary to some students’ beliefs, teachers are not being paid to bore them. In fact, the study of humanities isn’t integrated into the curriculum as a “mental hedonism”. Rather, it is a pathway to understanding. In other words, “analyzing text is how we begin to navigate the world”. The skills of “close reading and critical analysis” we learn by studying the Humanities, are applicable outside of the classroom. In our daily lives, ideas and information appear in many different forms, such as the internet, and in newspapers and advertisements. Humanities education teaches “how to think and how to parse language. Students learn how to identify nuance and complexity and subtle messaging”, providing them with the ability to register the reasoning behind words or pictures. Consequently, deceptive ideas lose their appeal when analyzed by the critical reader. Likewise, the foundational skills that humanities teaching is built on are used in important moments such as signing contracts. Close reading is required to ensure the understanding of what is being agreed to. People seeking a new job, buying a house, or setting up a new phone, contracts need to understand what they are agreeing to.

Reading is a major part of studying the Humanities, and an important foundation for being able to protect ourselves from being exploited. The study of Humanities also helps prevent people from being exploited. Those skilled at critical reading understand when a piece of writing is manipulative or exploitative. Politicians unfortunately use strategies of false promises, degrading fellow candidates, and concealing past controversy to succeed. The inability to “take apart what you are told” and develop an opinion based on facts you believe are true “are some of the most stubborn fault lines running beneath many of the current, deeply troubling, fractures in Western democratic societies”? According to The Dead Poets Society, “In our political climate, truth and facts have become increasingly murky. ” As a result, we must choose what we believe carefully. A skill obtained through studying Humanities can be described as “constantly look[ing] at things in a different way”. Mr. Keating highlights the importance of analyzing media as he stands upon his desk. Conforming to society’s beliefs and standards is common in young citizens. Being accepted is among the most relevant concern to many. As stated in Dead Poets Society, “Now, we all have a great need for acceptance. But you must trust that your beliefs are unique, your own, even though others may think them odd or unpopular. ” However, people able to “read if its information or propaganda” that politicians are murmuring can form personal opinions.

Todd astounds Mr. Keating when he takes his advice. “You must strive to find your own voice because the longer you wait to begin, the less likely you are going to find it at all”. In an action unexpected from the conforming, shy boy, Todd stands on his desk to show respect for Mr. Keating, whom he believed was right and deserving of employment at the school. Todd ignores Mr. Nolan and proudly utters “O Captain! My Captain!”. He does not conform to the actions of his professor, or students. Likewise, the study of humanities subtlety informs all students to have their “own deeply held beliefs”. The varied society and world we live in directly correlates to this idea. Moreover, the cultures we have created is a result of this study. The cultural aspects of religion, language and art unite people. However, differing views can result in conflicts. We often struggle to find common ground between religions, ethnicities or groups of people. These problems can be described as “a lack of empathy for the humanity of people different from oneself”. Investigating and analyzing “your culture and your own deeply held beliefs” can provide the realization that the foundations of diverse religions are unity, kindness, and sacrifice. Historically, we are all the same. We are interconnected.

Humanities studies provide “insight into the minds of people from different places and times. Ultimately, it’s an understanding of the vastness and interconnectedness of the world”. Far from being a thief of money, a waste of time and a subject of mockery, Humanities should be considered important. The ability to analyze and understand the information being presented remains a significant part of navigating our world. Conflicting opinions create a negative connotation around the subject of Humanities. Contrarily to those opinions, Humanities encompasses lessons that can be applied to our everyday lives. Our democratic society is built upon the foundational skills such as having personal beliefs, understanding the information being presented, and respecting others. In other words, the study of Humanities is an integral part of the curriculum and it is deserving of recognition.

10 October 2020
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