In Defense of Your Humanities Degree: 5 Reasons Why Studying the Humanities Isn’t a Waste of Time

By Danika McClure

In the wake of a graduate shortage in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), degrees in the humanities and soft sciences have increasingly been deemed as frivolous and less valuable to the American job market. Shortages in technical industries across the country have forced lawmakers to take action, often by decreasing funding to the arts and soft sciences in favor of colleges which produce more STEM graduates.

Rosemary G. Feal, who directs the Modern Language Association of America, attributes the decline in funding for the arts and humanities in the United States particularly to “legislators who themselves have not experienced first-hand the value of studying the humanities.”

The most recent attacks on the arts and soft sciences come from Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin, who told members of the associated press last month that he planned on reallocating the state’s higher education budget, giving more funding to colleges which produced the most STEM graduates.  Ironically enough, Bevin received his undergraduate degree in Japanese studies from Washington and Lee University, a private liberal arts institution.

By reallocating the state’s budget, Bevin hopes to curb the state’s STEM graduate shortage. But Bevin is just the latest in a series of lawmakers that don’t see the value in a humanities education, buying into the all too common myth of the unemployable liberal arts major.

As has been noted numerous times by educators everywhere, completing a degree in the social sciences, humanities, and the arts does not automatically condemn you to a life of retail or unemployment. The opposite, in fact may be true, as studying the liberal arts teaches students a variety of skills most sought after by employers. Rather than looking for technical skills, 95 percent of employers, prefer candidates who display “a demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems,” skillsets which humanities majors are more likely to have upon graduation.

While there are strong voices present in politics and even the education sector, there is proven value in studying the humanities, and as a person who has spent a large majority of her life in the arts and humanities, I’ve found many of the skills I learned in these “frivolous” courses more valuable to my work than any technical education I received while attending college.  Here are 5 reasons why pursuing a humanities degree isn’t a waste of time.

  1. Thinking Only About Shortages in the STEM Fields Will Oversupply the Workforce

While it cannot be understated that America is in the midst of a STEM crisis, reducing funding for programs outside of the hard sciences will ultimately oversupply the workforce in the scientific and technological sphere. After all, this isn’t the first time that the U.S. has experienced a workforce shortage; according to The Washington Post, this is a mistake the U.S. has perpetuated previously. A generation ago, lawyers made more money than investment bankers; but in the present day, the workforce is oversaturated with law graduates, while the investment banking industry is constantly searching for qualified candidates to fill positions.

While America does need to produce a certain number of STEM graduates in order to keep up with the global economy, there are other complex issues which graduates will have to confront in future years–issues which will require adaptability, in a variety of different environments.

  1. Humanities Education Gives Employees a Global Perspective

As business evolves to be ever globally-minded, business owners, civic leaders, and politicians are increasingly looking to understand the cultural and social climate of countries around the globe, and are counting on humanities graduates to better understand the cultural, historical, and political differences present in these countries.

Many large and revered corporations have failed to expand into overseas markets by ignoring cultural differences present in those markets.

“Some of the most successful American companies, including Walmart in Germany and TJK in Holland have failed overseas,” explains Professor Harry Lane, who teaches in Northeastern University’s School of Business, “because they did not understand how cultural differences would affect their business models.”

Lane, who has spent the past 30 years teaching individuals how to adjust to overseas markets, adds, “Thanks to globalization, an executive deals with more organizations, governments, and people, many of which are vastly different from the entities the executive is accustomed to and from each other.”

Those who have spent time studying the humanities and social sciences are able and ready to help their employer adapt to a variety of situations, partially because of their ability to adapt to any given situation and their proficient social skills, but also because humanities graduates have likely dipped their toes in a variety of social subjects including politics, sociology, anthropology, and language. These skillsets and areas of study allow graduates to adapt more quickly to the history and culture of a region, adding value to employers who seek to quickly develop relationships and transition into lucrative interactions in unfamiliar territories.

  1. Having an In-Demand Degree Doesn’t Necessarily Guarantee Job Placement

Given the fact that college has become increasingly expensive over the past decade, it makes sense that people are choosing majors based on their “employability factor.” Recent studies indicate that nearly 82 percent of 2015 graduates researched their field of study before choosing a degree path at their college.

If obtaining a certain degree guaranteed you a job, this kind of long term thinking would make perfect sense. But many professors, such as Jay Halfond of Boston University, have been speaking out against this line of thinking. In an interview with EvoLLLution, the professor notes, “In my view, it is dangerous and even corrupting to proceed down a path that shows that higher education ensures lucrative jobs soon after graduation. But we need to do a far better job demonstrating the relevance of a broad, general education, while linking what we teach to what is critical in the professional world.”

While there are jobs that require certain skillsets affiliated with specific degrees, generally speaking, your degree may have little to do with your career success. Recent research indicates that 62 percent of college graduates are working in jobs which require a degree, but only 27 percent of graduates are working in careers related to their major.

So what are employers looking for?

Many companies have begun seeking out candidates who have skillsets that are particularly developed among humanities majors: those who are adaptable, possess high levels of emotional intelligence, and are able to fit into the company’s pre established company culture.  That is to say, employers are less worried about your degree program and GPA, and are paying more attention to your personality, adaptability, and your predisposition to upholding company values.

  1. Humanities Courses Teach You How to Grapple with Uncertainty

In many STEM courses, students are presented with factual information and straightforward answers. Humanities classrooms, by contrast, are more likely to present students with material that is subjective, in which analyzing and considering a question is more important that giving a correct answer.

John Horgan, a professor at Stevens Institute of Technology explains his own defense of the humanities, writing “The humanities are subversive. They undermine the claims of all authorities, whether political, religious or scientific. This skepticism is especially important when it comes to claims about humanity, about what we are, where we came from, and even what we can be and should be.”

He adds later that by the end of his courses, his students will learn to question all authorities including himself. “You’ll question what you’ve been told about the nature of reality, about the purpose of life, about what it means to be a good person. Because that, for me, is the point of the humanities: they keep us from being trapped by our own desire for certainty.”

  1. The Job Prospects and Income for Humanities Majors Aren’t as Dire as Has Been Reported

UNEMPLOYMENT RATES danika mcclure

Image Source: cew.georgetown.edu

As grim as the job prospects seem to be for humanities majors right out of school, studies show that obtaining a job isn’t quite as difficult as is typically reported. In fact, the average unemployment rate for new graduates in the humanities is right on par with those with computer science and math degrees (9% v 9.1%).

Other studies indicate that humanities majors end up making more money on average than their peers who study the hard sciences. In a column written for The Wall Street Journal, Scott Samuelson cites a study performed by the Association of American Colleges and Universities which found that “at peak earning ages (56-60 years) workers who majored as undergraduates in the humanities or social sciences earn annually on average about $2000 more than those who majored as undergraduates in professional, or pre-professional fields.” Once again, employers were looking to hire graduates with the ability “to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems.”

Author Bio: Danika is a musician from the Northwest who sometimes takes a 30 minute break from feminism to enjoy a tv show. You can follow her on twitter @sadwhitegrrl


 Whether you’re studying the humanities or STEM, The Secrets of Top Students can help you get better grades!

The Liberal Arts Student’s Guide to STEM

Even if you’re a liberal arts / humanities student, you will probably have to take a course in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) at some point in your college career.  Check out this new article I wrote on how to succeed in STEM, even if you think you’re “just not good at math.”


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Quick Tips Part 5: How to Come Up with a Thesis

By Stefanie Weisman

If you’re a high school or college student, you probably dread having to come up with a thesis.  A thesis is the argument you make in your paper based on research and/or your own experience.  Sometimes a thesis will come to you very quickly, in a flash of inspiration.  But most of the time, it takes a lot more work.

When writing a research paper, consider yourself part of a scholarly debate.  It’s perfectly acceptable – even encouraged – to challenge the ideas you read in a book or heard from your teacher.  A thesis should be your own unique, original contribution to the debate.

To come up with a thesis, think critically as you read books, articles, and other sources.  You should constantly ask yourself questions such as:

  • Why did a person or character do something?  What motivates him/her?
  • Who/ What is responsible for an event or action?
  • What is the cause of something?  What is the effect of something?
  • What is the significance of an action or event?
  • What are some potential flaws in an author’s argument or idea?  Are there other possible explanations?
  • What do you think about an issue?  Do you agree with the given interpretation?  Why or why not?
  • How did an event or action take place?  Why did it take place the way it did?
As you do research, try thinking like a reporter – always ask “who, what, where, when, why, and how?”

Do you have any tips for coming up with a thesis?


For more tips on writing papers, check out The Secrets of Top Students.

Quick Tips Part 4: How to Use Google for Academic Research

By Stefanie Weisman

Sure, you use Google to look up cute cat videos, but it can also be a great tool for academic research.  Here are some tips on how to use Google to find sources good enough to cite in your papers.

  • Use double quotes to search for an exact term or a set of words in a specific order.
  • Include “site:” to limit your search to a particular website (e.g., “site:nytimes.com”) or top-level domain (e.g., “site:.edu” – this is useful if you only want to search websites hosted by universities).
  • If you’re looking for pdf documents – which tend to be more scholarly than regular websites – enter your search term(s) followed by “filetype:pdf”.
  • When trying to find a term on a web page, don’t forget about Ctrl-F (or Command-F if you use a Mac).  Just type the word or phrase you want to find in the box that pops up, and it’ll show you all the places where it occurs.
  • Use Google Scholar to search for academic articles, and Google Books for easily searchable texts.

What are some Google search techniques you like to use?


For more tips on writing and research, check out The Secrets of Top Students.

4 Must-See Places on the East Coast for Theater and Art Students

By Alison

Summer is almost over. Before the school year starts, you and your theater and art buddies are ready to hit the road for an amazing vacation. Instead of meandering from state to state, plan your trip to include as many cultural activities as possible. Fortunately, the East Coast is home to tons of artistic and theatrical touchstones.

Philadelphia Museum of Art

No trip to the City of Brotherly Love is complete without a visit to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. As one of the largest museums in the country, it is home to hundreds of paintings, architecture, sculptures and more from North and South America, Europe and Asia. Spend a day admiring the amazing Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings by Van Gogh, Cezanne and Monet and famous works by Frido Kahlo, El Greco and Salvador Dali that are on display at the museum. The building itself is a work of art, too. The neoclassical building is modeled after the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The museum is located at the west end of Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park. You and your friends can either explore the museum on your own or arrange for a guided or walk-through tour.

Exterior of the Museum of Art in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Exterior of the Museum of Art in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts

Located in the Boston suburb of Worcester, the Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts offers something for everyone. The theater, which seats 2,300 people, hosts national-touring companies performing Broadway shows, nationally-famous entertainers and community theater groups. To satisfy both the theater and art fans in your group, the Franklin Square Salon Gallery, which features a variety of art exhibits, is located on the second floor of the theater. This summer’s performances include the 10th Anniversary World Tour of Celtic Woman, Morrissey and the 2015 Miss Massachusetts Pageant.

Broadway

An East Coast adventure is not complete without spending some time in the Big Apple. After exploring in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, head to New York City for at least one Broadway show. For example, if you have wanted to see “The Book of Mormon” ever since your theater professor told you how funny it is, now is your chance to do just that. If you have time for more than one show, there are no shortage of entertaining productions on the Great White Way, including classics like “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Aladdin” and “Jersey Boys.” Whether you prefer something dramatic or a more avant-garde production, New York City theater offers something for everyone.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The “Met,” as it’s known, is to the Big Apple what the Louvre is to Paris. The museum’s collection of European art rivals anything you will find overseas and includes everything from the ancient Romans to Renoir. The Met is also home to plenty of American classics, as well as pieces from Egypt, Africa and the Middle East. The museum features hundreds of events and programs every month, including lectures, tours and performances.

About the author: Alison has been a freelance writer for the past 15 years. She enjoys writing about a wide variety of topics, and always looks for opportunities to learn about new subjects.

A Brief History of Education

What kind of education would you have received if you had lived in a different time? Interesting to think about.

Before Modern Education
Source: BestDegreePrograms.org


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Six Reasons Why Art is Essential to Education (Guest Post)

Vera Marie Reed is a writer who has written several articles for education and career sites. When she is not spending her day reading a new book or writing, she loves getting her creative juices flowing by trying new artistic hobbies such as photography or painting.

Recently, education has been subjected to government budget cuts.  A smaller budget leads to huge cuts within the schools, including teacher’s supplies, extra curricular activities, and classes not deemed essential. Unfortunately that means that many schools often opt to cut art education, including music, dance, and art classes. Although many school officials may not see art classes as an important part of a well-rounded education, students get significant benefits from all forms of art.

education 1

1. Students Develop New Skills

When a student wants to learn photography, painting, sculpting, or other types of art, they aren’t just learning the skills of that particular talent. Students also learn to think creatively, which is a skill that can transfer to other subjects. They become more descriptive and imaginative when writing essays. Art students also develop critical thinking skills which are important while learning math and science.

2. Motivation for Students

Getting kids to stay in school has always been an issue. They don’t feel motivated to go to class and learn things they don’t enjoy or think will be applicable to the real world. That’s why it’s important to allow them to explore subjects that are not only fun, but inclusive to all types of personalities. Students who are involved in art classes and extra curricular activities often find more drive for going to school every day.

3. Students Get An Outlet for Self-Expression

To say that young people, from elementary to high school students, have a lot of emotion would be an understatement. So many students feel the stress of needing to be successful at school, along with the pressures of fitting in with their peers. Without a proper outlet to express these feelings, they can end up feeling negatively about themselves and their school experience. However, art classes and extracurricular activities are the perfect outlet for self-expression.

4. Students Improve Test Scores

Those who are involved in art classes and extracurricular activities have been known to have higher test scores, better school attendance, and more recognition for academic achievement. According to a 2010 study, students who took art and music classes were much more likely to score high on the math, writing, and reading sections of the SAT. The better performances on the various subjects also correlated with these students attending highly rated universities.

5. Preschoolers Develop Important Skills

Preschool-aged students are essentially still learning their most basic functions. Students who take part in art and music activities from a very young age can develop spatial perception, critical thinking skills, and better communication. These are all skills that are vital for the growth of any young person. Just by allowing them time and materials for art every few days, you can ensure that these young students are gaining the skills they need in school and life.

6. Promotes Independence in Students

Art is one of the subjects that require the most independence. Through the self-expression and creativity involved in artistic endeavors, people learn to be more independent minded. There’s no homework to copy or test answers to memorize. Therefore, every piece of art they create is completely original and part of their individual growth.

Art in education is floundering due to budget cuts. However, the skills and emotional growth acquired through art is irreplaceable. For many students, the lack of art in school may mean cutting their path to success.


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