Who devalues the humanities?

A Letter-to-the-Editor of the Wilmington StarNews recently caught my attention. Gary Faulkner made a short plea under the heading, ‘Don’t devalue the humanities.’ He is upset because (higher) education studies of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) from state and federal sources get “the lion’s share of the budgetary pie.”

According to him humanities, arts, social sciences (HASS) get less pie, but I doubt that this would leave them in an academically malnourished condition. Taxpayers send megabucks of “pie” to the North Carolina State behemoth for consumption every year—some of it poorly digested.

First a short discussion about terminology: Humanities are the languages and literatures of ancient Greece and Rome; the so-called classics (not much call for socializing in Greek and Latin these days). Art is the “human effort to imitate, supplement, alter, or counteract the work of nature” (learning to fool Mother Nature seems not to be good use of one’s time). Social science is a group of disciplines including sociology, psychology, anthropology, economics, political science, and history (economics and history have been neglected in academia).

Faulkner thinks the world needs “better human relations”; an appreciation of “other religions” (other than Christianity?); an understanding of languages and other cultures (other than English?); a meaningful grasp of our traditions (American?); and critical thinking skills (logic?).

Several generations ago this was a fair description of what was taught in most liberal arts college curricula. But first students were well grounded in American history, math, English literature, Christian philosophy, economics, civics and logic. Today, I doubt that many high schools or colleges require skill in these subjects. Worthless, even foolish, courses have replaced the basics once considered necessary for an educated person.

Mr. Faulkner “would like to hear the reasons why that in a budgetary shortfall the arts and social studies courses are the first to be cut. Given the reality of world conflict, what is the explanation?”

Well, here is my opinion. Given “the reality of world conflict” every college student should be required to complete ROTC training in military science.

In addition, I don’t think that some social sciences should be cut—for example, our college students desperately need courses in history and economics (to have a “meaningful grasp of our traditions”)— many others could be thinned out.

But, of course, those decisions come from college administrative offices. University boards should oversee these judgments.

Looking through almost any modern college course offerings, however, one can find dozens, or even hundreds, of useless courses created by instructors to satisfy their personal agenda; often with frivolous and subversive subjects.

These meaningless and conflict-designed courses on identity politics, gender bias, racial agitation, anti-Western Civilization and other bizarre subjects could easily be stricken from the curricula—along with faculty that offer them. That would improve “human relations,” at least in the colleges.

There are other reasons for disparity in funding academic resources. Not all disciplines have equal value. For example, engineers and mathematicians are more valuable to society than are sociologists and psychologists evidenced by the fact that they are in greater demand and receive higher pay.

(Yet, even engineering studies are being contaminated with “social engineering”—Link below.)

Another reason that taxpayers should not be paying as much for humanities and arts is that these departments and programs are largely dominated by Marxists and people with anti-American views (even some criminal anarchists). Social “justice” has replaced social science. In fact, reduced funding would help get rid of some of the people who indoctrinate students with bad ideas rather than truly educate them.

Finally, the modern student body, by and large, is not prepared for learning what Faulkner thinks they should know, and few faculties are fit to teach classic subjects without bias. That’s why the public colleges and universities have eliminated required curriculum, and offer some valuable courses that require serious time and study only as electives.

In summary, it’s higher education administrators, faculties and students who have devalued the humanities, not our legislators who are probably simply responding to the problem.




About R. E. Smith Jr.

Mr. Smith writes essays and commentary on politics, American history, environment, higher education and culture. He's been published in print media and at blog sites for about 25 years. Smith's formal education includes B.S. and M.S. degrees from the State University of New York and Syracuse University. He has earned a 21-credit hour Certificate in Professional Writing from the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. Training/work experience: NYS Ranger School; U. S. Army, Corp of Engineers; soil scientist and forester with USDA; Assoc. Professor at SUNY; real estate agent; small business owner.
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