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The humanities: Out of date?


When the going gets tough, the tough takeaccounting. When the job market worsens, manystudents calculate they can't major in English orhistory. They have to study something that booststheir prospects of landing a job.


The data show that as students have increasingly shouldered the ever-rising c ost of tuition,they have defected from the study of the humanities and toward applied science and "hard"skills that they bet will lead to employment. In oth er words, a college education is more andmore seen as a means for economic betterment rather than a means for human betterment.This is a trend that i s likely to persist and even accelerate.


Over the next few years, as labor markets struggle, the humanities will proba bly continue theirlong slide in succession. There already has been a nearly 50 percent decline in the portion of liberal arts majors over the past generatio n, and it is logical to think that the trend is boundto continue or even accel erate. Once the dominant pillars of university life, the humanities nowplay li ttle roles when students take their college tours. These days, labs are more vi vid and compelling than libraries.


Here, please allow me to stand up for and promote the true value that the h umanities add topeople's lives.


Since ancient times, people have speculated aboutthe mystery of those inner forces that drive somepeople to greatness and others to self-destruction.Thi s inner drive has been called many things over thecenturies. The famous psy chologist, SigmundFreud, called it the "unconscious mind" or, morefamiliarl y, "instinct".


From the beginning of time, this inner aspect of our being, this drive that can be constructive or destructive, has captured our imagination. The stories of this amazing struggle have formedthe basis of cultures the world over. Histor ians, architects, authors, philosophers and artistshave captured the words, im ages and meanings of this inner struggle in the form of story,music, myth, p ainting, architecture, sculpture, landscape and traditions. These men andw omen developed artistic "languages" that help us understand these aspirati ons and alsoeducate generations. This fertile body of work from ancient time s, the very foundation ofcivilization, forms the basis of study of the humaniti es.


Studying the humanities improves our ability to read and write. No matter wh at we do in life, wewill have a huge advantage if we can read complex ideas and understand their meaning. Wewill have a bright career if we are the per son in the office who can write a clear and elegantanalysis of those ideas!


Studying the humanities makes us familiar with thelanguage of emotion and t he creative process. In aninformation economy, many people have the abilit y to produce a useful product such as a new MP3 player.Yet, very few people

have the ability to create a spectacular brand: the iPod. Most importantly,st udying the humanities invests us with great insight and self-awareness, the reby releasing our creative energy and talent in a positive and constructive manner.

学习人文学科会让我们熟悉表达情感的语言及进行创造的过程。在信息经济中,很多人都有能力创造出一个如新的 MP3 播放器那样的有用产品。然而,仅有很少的人具有能力创造出一个如 iPod 那样的精彩品牌。最重要的是,学习人文学科使我们具有伟大的洞察力和自我意识,从而以积极和建设性的方式来发挥我们的创造力和才艺。

Perhaps the best argument in favor of the humanities is the scope of possibili ties that arewidely open to us. Did you know that James Cameron, world-fam ous director of the movie,Titanic, graduated with a degree in the humanities ? So did Sally Ride, the first woman in space.So did actors Bruce Lee, Gwynet h Paltrow, Renee Zellweger and Matt Damon. Dr. HaroldVarmus, who won a N obel Prize for Medicine, studied the humanities. Even Michael Eisner,Chairman of the Disney Company, majored in the humanities. Famous people who stud ied thehumanities make a long list indeed. It's easy to see that the humanitie s can prepare us formany different careers and jobs we can undertake, wheth er medicine, business, science or entertainment.


If we study only mathematics, it's likely we will be a candidate only for jobs a s a mathematician. If weinclude studying the humanities, we can makebreakt hroughs on many barriers and are limited onlyby our effort and imagination.


Of course, nowadays, if we study the humanitiesalone, we are liable to miss many opportunities.Each one of us needs to become as technically and profes sionally skilled as possible to helpmeet the needs of modern life. In fact, incre asingly a pairing of technical knowledge and inner insight is seen as the idea

l in the establishment of a career. If I were the Dean of Admissionsat a med ical school and two people applied to our school, both having the required bas icscientific courses, one a philosophy major and the other solely a pre-med st udent, thephilosophy applicant would be chosen.


In summary, the humanities help to create well-rounded human beings with insight andunderstanding of the passions, hopes and dreams common to all humanity. The humanities,the ancient timeless reservoir of knowledge, teac h us to see things differently and broaden our horizons. They are as useful an d relevant in our modern age as they have always been.Doesn't it make sen se to spend some time in the company of the humanities, our outstanding an d remarkable treasure of knowledge? Who knows how famous YOU might be come!


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