The world is changing, the economy is riling, and we're stumbling into a future where people are their own personal corporations, moving from professional affiliation to private enterprise and on to the "next thing," always juggling too many tasks and playing too many roles, required to live their lives creatively and originally, to think without boxes, to anticipate futures, and to match all this hard work and effort with what we in America idealistically call "the pursuit of Happiness."
By this measure, virtually everyone in America should be engaging in a nuanced liberal arts education: learning to be a citizen and a thinker, learning how to live and how to learn to do, learning how to be in the company of mankind, mystery, and history at once. And to find meaning in this. But now is the exact time when people, stupidly, are running into holes and seeking out the University-sponsored equivalent of vo-tech.
...a traditional liberal arts education is, by definition, not intended to prepare students for a specific vocation. Rather, the critical thinking, civic and historical knowledge and ethical reasoning that the humanities develop have a different purpose: They are prerequisites for personal growth and participation in a free democracy, regardless of career choice.Everything that follows this is, in my opinion, moot, because the problem is the premise. If the changes in the world are driving people away from the humanities, that is the problem, and someone needs to correct it: people need perspective, wisdom, and the ability to make connections that are both imaginative and reasoned, people need to learn the skills of lifelong learning, creativity, and sense of the human condition, past actions, consequences, and so on.
But in this new era of lengthening unemployment lines and shrinking university endowments, questions about the importance of the humanities in a complex and technologically demanding world have taken on new urgency