The humanistic approach

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

When there is a lack or absence of funding for higher education, it concerns me. I know I’ve discussed my distaste for lawmakers in the classroom here, but only when it comes to how one should approach teaching, now how one should approach funding a university system and why that should be done.

The legislature in Minnesota has recently revoked six billion in funds to Minnesota institutions of higher education. This has caused a crisis for MN universities, many of which were already faced with budget cuts and financial worries.

I see a problem with a society that refuses to look toward and fund the future and remains focused entirely on the present and the wallets of those who seem important at the time. When I look at my students in the classroom, I don’t see people who don’t care about their own education. I see people who are scared the skills and talents they possess won’t be valued or encouraged by the supposed “real world.” I see people who are invested in their learning—financially, intellectually and at times emotionally—and do want to learn, despite the discussion that no one cares about learning anymore and only want a college degree.

For example, my students this semester in their recent assignments showed how much they care about their majors by using them as lenses to understand the concept of freedom. A student in my class had commented on how she could tell who majored in what just by their answers. I found this statement to be incredibly hopeful, one that spoke toward their actual learning.

A society and culture that no longer places real value in the humanities and arts in education is not only saddening to me, but also exhibits a dangerous level of thinking. We need the scientists, economists, politicians, engineers, computer scientists, and pharmacists, but we also need people who do these jobs to absolutely believe in the concepts of humanism and can apply creative thinking, a sense of humanity, and critical thinking to their jobs and lives. A society that does not value the humanities and arts also does not completely value the human nature and creativity within themselves.

The argument for the humanities/arts and for higher education is not only a logical one, it is also creative, explorative, humanistic, futuristic, and technological one. As technology continues to grow, we will continue to need people to think creatively and humanely. Practicality and technology alone only gets you so far. You need more than that for a society to run on even intellectual grounding.

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