We have all taken classes in college that we thought were a giant waste of time, believe me I can name several right off the top of my head, foreign language being the first culprit. I think there could not be a bigger waste of time in the academic community, unless you plan to work in a foreign country or wish to take this course for pleasure. Making these courses mandatory is idiocy in my opinion, but we are not here to talk about that. What I would like to discuss is what role the humanities will play in the future of the academic world and education in general.
First, I would like to say that from my experience I think there is an extremely large gap between the academic world and the professional or working world. What I mean is that I think that what is taught in schools and universities translates little if at all to the workplace, which is very very very disheartening especially after spending tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars on an education. While that is certainly a problem that I think needs to be addressed in the coming decades, I also came across this article that makes some very interesting points about what should or needs to be taught in schools.
The basis of the issue is that as our civilization becomes more and more technological, it would appear that more and more science should be taught in schools and things like language, art, literature, and philosophy should be put to the side to make room for more science based classes. Basically that we need to do away with the humanities taught in schools and focus on more math and science based courses. Mostly makes sense right?
Now, I think at first glance it looks like a very reasonable and a smart thing to do, and I will admit I think I am mostly on board with this notion. However, I do not think this will be a good idea in terms of society, culturally, and for humanity overall to completely abandon the humanities. As I mentioned above I despise foreign language courses as I have not once used what I learned, **note to all foreign language professors, most of the people around the world speak English so why waste my time taking Spanish, they all speak some English!!! But let’s put that aside for a second as to me I do not technically lump learning a foreign language into the humanities, I know that technically that it should be, but I am not going to include it here. Personally I think you can learn about a culture without having to learn its language, or learn a language without understanding the culture, they are not one and the same.
With that being said I think sciences are arguably the most important aspect of human culture. They have helped us build a modern society and achieve a great many things that were once thought impossible. I can only begin to imagine what the future holds for our civilization, given that we don’t destroy ourselves. It will be the sciences that will get us to the next phase of human evolution, whatever it may be. For all the questions that science has answered in the previous centuries there are infinitely more that arise. The more we figure out the more questions we have about our reality and physical world. And I think this is the interesting part, could or will we eventually reach a point to where there are no more questions about reality. We will know for certain about exactly how our universe works and no questions will remain. If we reach that point, what then? What will we do then? I believe that is when the humanities and the deepest and darkest questions will be the most important.
I took this quote from the article:
If the human mind can understand the workings of the world without apparent limitations, what room then for mystery? For spiritual questioning? If the world is written in a mathematical code, what room then for doubt, for free will?
On some level I think the humanities drive the sciences and vice versa, especially when it comes to consciousness or some other very complex ideas and theories. Do you know that we still, with all our technology, do not have a real true definition for consciousness. The thing that is seems so easy to understand for the individual, yet there is not a universal definition that everyone can agree on. I think that some of the biggest and deepest philosophical questions out there science is trying to solve. One drives the other, and honestly I think that having one without the other would be somewhat pointless.
Imagine if we could prove we were in a simulation. This one science fact raises an insane amount of philosophical questions, questions that would be extremely interesting. That is just one example. I would also argue that questions like, what is my purpose, science cannot answer. To me that is something the individual will have to figure out and understand on their own. And what is scary is if science could answer that question would we be satisfied with the answer? If we did not have the humanities to question scientific answers, we would just have to accept this answer as cold hard fact.
In college I can remember hating philosophy. I had a personally vendetta for Descartes and his stupid cogito, but now as I am much older and wiser I can see the purpose of learning about such things. I went to a liberal arts school so I think I got a good well rounded education, which is the purpose of a liberal arts school. But I also think taking Spanish was a giant waste of time and should be done away with. For me personally I think that the humanities are a testament of who we are and what it means to be human, and on some level attempt to answer the age old question of why, as well as trying to understand the human condition. Without the humanities none of these things would matter, and perhaps on some level they do not, but I think that is also a philosophical question. Maybe nothing matters, and ultimately I believe that we are all going to die one way or the other. If through some miracle of technology we can all live forever we will not out live the universe. At some point even if science can answer many of the questions we are now looking for answers to, I think at they become meaningless without the accompanying philosophical questions.
One thing that I think it is easy to forget while in school is that while studying philosophy may seem like a waste of time I think the course are designed to help you look at the world differently. Also, they helped open doors to different ways of thinking and ultimately I think that is what college is all about, not only learning but helping an individual tackle complex ideas and always asking more questions. I would also like to say that even though I did not enjoy these courses while I was taking them I think they along with another literature course helped me take the step to doing one of my favorite hobbies, writing. I doubt that without these courses in college if I would have ever picked up a pen and started writing or created this website. I would just have been some finance guy who was close to having a quarter like crisis as I searched for some sort of meaning to my existence.
So while I can see both sides, the side I cannot see is completely doing away with the other. That makes no sense in my mind. I am certainly of the ilk that science is extremely important, BUT I also believe that on some level it will lose its footing if the humanities are not there to firmly and soundly keep science rooted in human culture. One without the other is a step toward a dystopian society that I am not sure I want to live in…