I regularly earn myself grimaces and looks of bewilderment from peers in my particular area of study when they find out I’m taking senior English classes and loving them. Most are glad to have seen the last of their hundred-level compulsory English classes. Many remain disinterested in (still) lesser-known fields like Gender Studies. (I have to highlight that Gender and Women’s Studies are extremely interdisciplinary fields. Read more about why you should take a Gender or Women’s Studies course.) While I cannot say that other non-humanities majors share the same views as the majority in my faculty, there are still many non-believers in the humanities within and outside of academia.
Although I owe a big part of my love for English literature to my parents for creating a book-loving environment for me since childhood, my appreciation for the humanities goes far beyond loving to read. Even though I don’t hold any disdain for those not actively engaged and invested in the humanities and I am thoroughly sorry for coming off as condescending, I feel that not being actively engaged and invested in the humanities propagates inadequacies in holistic and profound thought. My point is that engagement and personal investment in the humanities is essential in understanding and engaging in social issues.
While I’m not proposing that dispassion for the humanities begets apathy towards social issues, nor that everyone passionate about social issues is heavily invested in the humanities, my passion in the humanities was the catalyst for my engagement in social issues. I definitely acknowledge that this personal experience is highly subjective and cannot be applied homogeneously to everyone else.
Nevertheless I am constantly amazed at the level of student engagement in my senior-level humanities classes. Although the classroom environment of these courses detracts from the traditional lecture-style method of learning and although I took time to get used to this learning style as an introvert who readily shies away from speaking to an audience, I now think this learning style is fundamental in learning effectively. I did raise an eyebrow or two albeit internally at the seemingly lack of direction given by professors but I came to realize that even though they are highly capable and knowledgeable in their fields, sometimes the best insights come from the alternating exchanges between students. Of course professors are still critical in guiding the discussion in the right direction, but just as positive energy rubs off team members, insightful discoveries are made from these exchanges. It’s disappointing that I’m unable to find similar classroom styles in my Business classes as yet. It’s definitely more difficult to apply the same classroom style to “black-and-white” courses based around hard facts (think any science or math-related courses) and it’s depressing that it’s quite impossible to adapt the aforementioned classroom style to such courses. I have seen professors attempt to do this much to the distaste and contempt of students in such “black-and-white” courses. If only such “black-and-white” courses could warrant the same level of engagement in classroom discussions as those of senior-level humanities and social science classes.
With all debate surrounding the detrimental budget cuts at my university, the related debate surrounding the case for (and against) the liberal arts comes to mind. It is appalling that people can be against such critical areas of study. Nonetheless it is definitely heartening to there are beautifully articulated cases for the liberal arts.