The Side-by-Side is a bi-semester pair of columns. Two students receive the same potentially divisive question and don’t get to see what the other has written before it is published.
This week’s question: The goal of a career in college is undoubtedly tied to one piece of paper: the degree that certifies the student. In this context, what impact should the humanities have on students, if any?
By: Natalie Fagundo
Contemporary society praises utility in all aspects of life, especially in attaining one’s college degree. People attend college to gain an education that will prepare them for future jobs. Getting a degree is important because certain careers require affirmation of one’s abilities and skills in particular fields. So why should one entertain the liberal arts if the humanities are not useful to attaining a specific degree?
College graduates with exposure to the liberal arts stand out among other graduates by confirming their abilities to think and express themselves with ease. The humanities teach students how to think, and specifically, to think for themselves.
Great accomplishments rarely occur in mediocre circumstances. Great accomplishments arise out of the actions of innovators and risk-takers who do not merely follow the system but seek to improve it. When one has studied art, literature, philosophy and any other discipline of the humanities, he or she has been exposed to those great innovators and rule-breakers. They know of people who changed the world and are able to wrap their heads around such achievements and perhaps follow in the footsteps of historical figureheads.
Inevitably, in the course of studying, papers have been written and discussions have been discussed. Self-expression in the form of spoken and written words has been practiced and edited over and over again until expressing oneself is not a frightening endeavor but a confident one. As social beings, the ability to share our thoughts with each other is necessary for survival.
In a competitive job market, being able to express thoughts and ideas clearly and efficiently to other people is essential to acquire and maintain job positions.
Study of the humanities also solidifies personal meaning and purpose beyond job placement. Artists and great thinkers often contemplate what it means to be human and what life’s purpose is. Exposure to such questions and thought-provoking work enables one to reflect on past experiences and future goals. People desire to work in a field that provides the necessities of life, such as shelter and food.
However, if utility is the only purpose one finds in his or her career, something is always missing. We must also strive to be happy and live a good life. This involves the discovery of what makes one happy and the drive to do what is right not only for ourselves but for others.
A perfect example is the required Philosophy 100 class, Ethics as an Introduction to Philosophy. In studying ethics, students learn about moral action and consequences, teachings that can be carried out in the real world when addressing problems and dilemmas that negatively affect people. The humanities aid students in the discovery of the good life and purpose in one’s work.
Studying the humanities creates a more valuable college degree. The liberal arts teach one how to think and express his or her ideas clearly.
Beyond that, they allow for the discovery of purpose and happiness that cannot be found in other disciplines. In a world that revolves around utility, the humanities are essential to finding meaning and priceless happiness, which goes beyond what is merely useful.
Natalie Fagundo is a junior from Boulder, Colo., with a major in philosophy and a minor in French.