A Declaration of the Humanities
When in the course of academic life, it becomes necessary for teachers and scholars of the humanities to counter misinformation, scientism, market demand reductionism, and the doctrine of bare utility, it is important to spell out the exact reasons for such a critique as a starting point for a fresh dialogue on the nature of education.
The humanities see students as whole persons, not as instruments to be plugged into this or that economic system. These instruments are one-dimensional human beings. We don’t see the following as self-evident (for it they were, what would be the point of this declaration?), but do assert: 1) the lives of students are to be seen in their entirety and not simply as mechanisms to fit into an economic system; 2) the freedoms with which the United States is associated cannot be attained by one-dimensional human being; and 3) the pursuit of happiness, while unquantifiable, still remains a major human aspiration, which the humanities ably articulate.
We, the teachers and scholars of the humanities, offer the following observations:
· The humanities do not contend that measurability is unimportant; they reject the idea that all aspects of human experience are reducible to measurability.
· Arts without sciences are formless; sciences without art are sterile. Science offers the structure to order the arts; arts offer the appreciation of that structure.
· Each area of humanity teaches students a foreign language. Not knowing this language relegates the student outside the realm of experiencing something potentially valuable, whether that is a sculpture in an art gallery, an opera, or a play.
· Those well versed in the humanities can read Plato or Shakespeare in the morning; go to an art museum or a concert in the afternoon, and in the evening attend a play or learn how a ballroom dance, all the while knowing a second or third language. The humanities increase appreciation of life. Without them, many avenues of enrichment are blocked off and doors are closed.
· One-dimensional students from bare utility education are not prepared to participate in republics or democracies. Their ignorance of the heritage of their society excludes them from that responsibility.
· Human beings are idea-makers and what we make are reflections of those ideas. The humanities prepare people to create and challenge those ideas, judging whether they be harmful or beneficial by thoughtful comparisons of similar ideas from different ages and cultures.
· The humanities develop an autonomous faculty for assessing the world, which is commonly called conscience.
· The founders of the United States of America (John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton) produced landmark documents, which they could not have possibly conceived unless they were steeped in the humanities. Unless we are steeped in the humanities, we will not understand those important documents and their importance to our heritage.
· The wisdom of the ages—the concerns and problems of human beings from all eras—is manifested in the humanities. We deprive ourselves of wisdom by marginalizing the humanities.
· The humanities, by showing us diverse perspectives on both an intellectual and emotional level, deepen empathy and paves the way for a global perspective requisite for establishing common ground between different cultures.
· Because the humanities show us the grey areas and the faulty foundations on which knowledge is based, it curbs the dogmatic nature of disciplines that uncritically accept absolute objectivity and set up a dictatorship of certainty.
· Utility-based education does not develop the uniqueness of human beings since its overriding function is to make human beings employment-ready.
· Studying the humanities develops much-in-demand writing skills.
· During peak years of earning, people with humanities degrees make more than those with technical degrees.
· Without knowing intellectual landmarks, students are lost. They have no sense of their heritage and wander in the desert of ignorance.
· The humanities are neither conservative and liberal, preservative and critical. Because they preserve the intellectual landmarks, they is conservative. Because they teach us to assess those intellectual landmarks,they are critical. The humanities represent a balance between the liberal and conservative.
· The humanities allow human beings to find unique paths for self-expression and are expressions of the deepest longings of our humanity.
· The humanities create flexible minds that think through ambiguity and devise innovative solutions.
· The diploma now represents a list of ingredients that the product (student) contains instead of passport to new experiences.
· If education bows to the marketplace as if the marketplace were a divinity, then intrinsic values such as Truth, Beauty, Justice, and Goodness are at best devalued and at worst obliterated.
· Utility-based education does not prepare students for the real world workforce, which is fluid and volatile with people actually having 4 or 5 career changes. These cogs can only fit in this part of machine, not other parts of a machine that is constantly changing.
We, therefore, the teachers and scholars of the humanities, appeal to scientists, politicians, and administrators to re-evaluate how utility-based education is impacting students and the general welfare of our culture. Without asking the big questions, the big picture can never be seen. Without moving the heart, there is no motivation to see the big picture. Without accepting ambiguity, certainty is solidified to the point of being unchangeable and finally unchallengeable. Without the skills to interconnect, students are marooned on reefs that give them the impression that their view is the only view and offers no clues about how to co-exist. Without being able to see the bigger picture, students flail at introspection and conform to existing standards and are unable to adapt and innovate. Without the humanities, the thread that keeps human experiences from being torn asunder is absent. The humanities are the great organizer of the human experience because they give a purpose to human projects in expressions of faith, will, and hope. Without the humanities, life activities are less valued and life less meaningful.
We, as members of this august body and tradition, assert that utility-based education deprives students of their full potential and the society in which they live of citizens capable of functioning in it. For the many reasons stated above, we affirm the value of the humanities and propose their emancipation from absolute science and eschew their subjection to market demands.