Defense of the Humanities

Ok, time for the obligatory “defense of the humanities” post. I’ve more or less managed to put it off for about 15 months. But, it’s time.

Since there’s some debate about what exactly constitutes the humanities, I’ll give my list (there’s some crossover with social sciences): anthropology, classics, history, language, literature, philosophy, psychology, religious studies, and sociology. Not an all inclusive list, to be sure.

Why do these matter?

I have big three reasons and innumerable minor ones.

First, the humanities rarely reach definitive conclusions. The lack of definitiveness comes from the object of study: humanity. Since we are constantly evolving and changing on the socio-psychological levels, every aspect of our study of ourselves is continually evolving and changing. The lack of definitiveness also makes us more open to changing ideas, more able to shift how we think about things, and more adaptable in many ways.

Second, the humanities encourage empathy to at least some degree. Through studying the humanities, we learn to see things from other perspectives and other backgrounds. This is an immersive process as we delve deeper into other cultures, histories, and societies. This capability has many obvious uses outside the classroom – such as international relations, business (both domestic and international), and public relations.

There are also more tangible benefits. The clear one is that studying the humanities leads to a better understanding of people and existence. They also teach us how to conduct research, analysis, and interpretation in ways that other fields don’t. Not better ways, just different ways. They also teach us to think. Many other fields require graduate research that is basically being an assistant on someone else’s research project. In virtually all of the humanities, graduate research is the student’s from concept to publication. This is also a significant amount of independence. We also learn, after years of reading, to acquire, process, and analyze a lot of data efficiently because that is what we do for every class and writing project we undertake. Finally, many of the humanities teach us effective argumentation through closely studying writing and public speaking.

I’ve even read a number of articles in the last couple years in which top business executives say they favor humanities majors as hires over MBAs and related degrees.

But, don’t take my word for it. Check out:

Harvard Business Review

Business Insider


Open Letter to Universities, or Hire Me

This is my application for the office of president of any university or college in the U.S.

Why would I be a good choice for president of your university? I have been teaching and tutoring for over a decade now. I have held positions at a state university main campus, a state university branch campus, and a community college. On the other hand, I have never held a university administrative position. I have never been a provost, vice president, dean, or department chair. I have never been particularly comfortable in suits or an office closed off from others. In fact, I am more comfortable in jeans and a dress shirt having a packed lunch in a room full of students. I am more comfortable walking campus, seeing and being seen by students, staff, and faculty alike. I take my undergraduate college president as an example here, he took pains to meet every incoming student, taught a bit every semester, and greeted every student he saw on campus by name (and asked about their projects). I think those are positive qualities in a university presidential candidate.

Let’s face it, really that is the kind of president you need. Three decades of rapidly expanding upper administrations and administrative salaries has not worked. The “business” of the university is higher education, not higher administration.

If hired, I foresee a common sense budget. I have lived on one since I turned eighteen, so recognizing one is not a problem. First, I see reducing the president’s salary. Second, cutting redundant upper administrative positions (vice presidents, provosts, deans, and such). Third, I see taking a long, hard look at coaching salaries, particularly in comparison to the actual income of sports programs and in comparison to teaching faculty salaries. Fourth, I see taking a hard look at construction budgets, particularly those projects that only affect the school’s appearance or only benefit the administration, not the students. Given that these four areas tend to be the largest percentage of school budgets, I foresee a significant reduction in operating costs.

Finally, I lead by example. This is something that I learned in Scouting and that comes naturally. Reducing the operating costs of the president’s office should be relatively easy. For example: is travel necessary? If so, there is no need for a private plane or even a first class seat. The same goes for accommodations, a hotel is a place to sleep or briefly relax, not a place to live, and expensive restaurants are a waste.

In short, I think I would be a good candidate for president of the university because career upper administrators are not working. It is time for someone who lacks aspirations to a corporate CEO’s life to take the reins.

English’s Self-Inflicted Wounds – The Conversation – The Chronicle of Higher Education

And this is one reason I get ticked off that English departments hire five or seven “Postcolonialists” or “African-American Lit” specialists for every one person who specializes in anything from medieval to Victorian. If there’s no foundation in the canon, there’s no way to fully appreciate or understand what the non-canonical (or new canon) are doing or reacting to.


And I’ll say that I generally like Morrison, often enjoy Erdrich, and love O’Brien and that almost all of my previous research/writing focus has been non-canonical . . . but I have a reasonably strong canonical background (not the best it could be but, perhaps slightly better than average).

Joshua Keiter

English’s Self-Inflicted Wounds – The Conversation – The Chronicle of Higher Education

According to the Modern Language Association, in the late 1960s and early 70s, English accounted for about 7.5 percent of all bachelor’s degrees granted in the United States, but the portion plummeted to around 3.5 percent in the early 80s, climbed a bit to nearly 5 percent in the early 90s, then dr…

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