How Does Taking a Humanities or Social Science Class Relate to My Program?
At the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, a woman with a Ph.D. in Psychology is teaching business courses. Why? Northwestern is expanding its horizons to show students and the world that even business and marketing have an element of psychology at the core. Many disciplines overlap including business, marketing, and economics with women’s studies, psychology and sociology, to name only a few (Stratford, 2012).
According to Merriam-Webster, the humanities is the plural form of humanity which refers to, “the branches of learning (as philosophy, arts, or languages) that investigate human constructs and concerns as opposed to natural processes (as in physics or chemistry) and social relations (as in anthropology or economics)”(Humanities, 2012). Patricia Cohen said it best in a 2009 article from the New York Times, “…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” (Cohen, 2009).
Students who struggle to understand why they must take a humanities course are missing the fundamental purpose of humanities; they are not understanding that to be a good employee and interviewee a person must understand the human condition beyond what he or she has personally experienced. It is especially important for students at a career college to grasp the concepts of their humanities courses early on because students are allowed to take more program related courses to get a better understanding of their future career, at the cost of reduced humanities courses. With a
reduction of these courses, spectacular workers are being created who may be inadequately prepared for the personal interactions of the workforce in areas requiring oral and written communication and critical thinking skills.
At a time when many universities are cutting and limiting liberal studies degrees, students need to understand how classes like World Music, Film and Society, Introduction to Literature, Creative Writing, and Spanish I will help them to get a job after graduation. All these courses require students to use a different part of the brain than the science and math courses that lead to technical degrees. Medical Assisting, Veterinary Technology, Massage Therapy, and Criminal Justice students all can learn something about working with people whether they be clients, patients, or citizens. Humanities is about learning to think critically when in a difficult situation or communicating effectively with different kinds of people.
One way to build these skills outside of the classroom is working with a campus organization. Student lead organizations at Globe-La Crosse’s Campus use these same skills to organize fundraisers, help the needy, and educate the Coulee Region population about related topics. One way that Globe University is helping students to acquire these skills while taking fewer humanities courses is through Service Learning. Service Learning is a pedagogical method used by a growing number of centers of learning to get students practical experience in their fields and in the community before graduating. Although service learning is not fundamentally a humanities course, in some ways it may substitute for the types of learning that may occur in some
of the humanities courses. Similar skills are used including critical thinking, writing and communication, reading to understand, researching, and reflecting with the intent to evaluate. At traditional universities, these skills are often taught through reading Shakespeare and Proust, writing poetry and prose, and analyzing the acts of kamikazes and religious leaders.
One may say, “Yes, this is all good, but really then why do I have to take a humanities course?” The ultimate answer may be that for all college graduates, a humanities course gives students from Accounting and Business to Massage Therapy and Medical Assisting to Veterinary Technology and Information Technology a common experience and base understanding of the human experience. Whether a person takes a film critique, literature analytical, or music appreciation class the idea that film, literature, and music are all traits that makes a person human and in which one can use the
information/skills to relate to another on a personal level. What it takes to create a film, a poem, or a score all come from a similar place, and how many people exist that cannot relate to (at least) one of these forms? To learn more about humanities or how to get involved in Wisconsin connect to the Wisconsin Humanities Council.
Cohen, P. (2012).In tough times, the humanities must justify their worth. New York Times. Retrieved from http://nytimes.com
Humanities. (2012). In Merriam-Webster.com. Retrieved June 25, 2012, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/humanities
Stratford, M. (2012). Top business schools look to social scientists to enhance research. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from http://chronicle.com