In today’s competitive world, many people deemphasize the role and study of the humanities in daily life especially as they are taught today. A growing movement of senior professors states that going to college for the humanities and liberal arts will lead to a “wasted” career due to a lack of available jobs in these areas. Given the current way from ideological basis on which the courses are taught, they could be right Rev. Edward Moran notes. Instead of expanding horizons of understanding, these current humanities courses present a stilted and diminished approach to human nature, the acquisition of wisdom and a deeper understanding of the human person.
However, the classic humanities have a strong part to play in the modern world. Rev. Edward Moran from Richmond, VA shares why the humanities taught from a classical perspective versus a socialist perspective are indispensable and why students should be encouraged to pursue them in college and later life.
The Humanities Prepare Students for Many Careers
While every career bases its results on business knowledge and/or scientific knowledge, a basic understanding of the history of thought, ideas that have changed human history, and thinkers, authors and poets who have contributed to the persistent truths of human nature, the evolution of politics, the basis for crucial scientific discoveries, the impact of technology on humanity and the future of mankind are the critical context educated people need in order to navigate their lives while appreciating the past’s contributions to humanity. Many professions, especially the law, require a solid background in humanities, especially those that teach critical thinking, logic, reasoning, argumentative skills and the basis for virtuous living. The humanities when taught from a classical perspective ground students in ideas often foreign but essential to living well, living with values, living in community and seeing beyond just the material universe around us. Humanities teach about the dynamics of life, relationships, courage, the value of true freedom, and ways used in the past to be brave in the face of opposition and persecution. They present ideas that help put life into perspective, compare and contrast ancient ways of thinking with those of our modern day. To know something of the writings of Aristotle, Plato, the Stoic thinkers, St. Thomas Aquinas, Bacon, Shakespeare, Descartes, Rousseau, Locke, Newton, Leibnitz, Hume, Hegel, Yeats, Shelly, Keats, Nietzsche, Husserl, Wittgenstein, Auden, and C.S. Lewis is to learn from some of best expressions of human thought so that in the present day complex information can be consumed critically with perspective so that the human person might live a full, rich, informed and satisfying life. These kinds of humanities encourage the student to know history and world beyond themselves and their age in order to bring a kind of perspective to life that benefits all with whom they work and live.
Critical thinking skills are a huge part of why the classical humanities are beneficial for everyone. Every career requires critical thinking, and humanities students are given a solid grounding in this area by reading some of the authors cited above while studying in their chosen fields. The classic humanities are especially helpful in the law, literature and writing, politics and government, as well as all artistic pursuits.
The Humanities Preserve Our History
History is popularly considered one of the least valuable careers, but it must preserve our past and look toward our future. The YouTube feature, ’The History Guy’ is perhaps one of the most successful shows given how it accurately depicts critical events in history that “need to be remembered” in easily understood snippets of 10-13 minutes. It is true that we must study the past to see which actions are best to take in the future. Preserving the past enables us to understand human nature. It also enables us to take a long view of events, using historical examples to help us decide where our future is going. . History presents us with a record our understanding of how our society has developed over time.
Creating Works of Art
Without the humanities, the world would be missing the enrichment of art and music. Art and music are essential parts of a fully realized society especially if the artist has a classical context for understanding art. Their classical humanities studies enable the artist with historical context to frame his or her art. Such classical trained people are able to express themselves deeply and contribute their opinions in the art to advancing the human experience. Art from this perspective is another way to preserve and extend our history. Understanding how people create art and what inspired them, especially when viewed from the history of art perspective is a great asset when studying how the world works and how cultures interact.
Furthering Our Culture
Around the world, the humanities, especially when studied from the classical perspective, help to further cultural pursuits. Philosophy preserves human thought processes and gives us a chance to understand the way people thought in the past. This gives people of today a rich and deepened background to appreciate the challenges of today. While each culture approaches the humanities differently, some cultures are more interested in their history, while others are sadly focused on the here and now living without much context to the past. Such people who do not understand nor appreciate the lessons of history, especially the tragic outcomes, are somehow doomed to repeat them says Rev. Edward Moran. Cultural differences can fascinate students and teachers and having a strong knowledge of the humanities give them a way to connect human thought.
Preserving Critical Thinking Skills
Writing, critical thinking, and analyzing texts are skills that are perpetuated through the humanities. Understanding how to deal with new knowledge requires these analysis methods.
The skills of debate, rhetoric, and forming a coherent argument are valuable for everyone. The humanities teach students to express their ideas and to relate to people with opposing opinions. If there is nothing more needed today, Rev. Edward Moran says, it is the ability to present one’s ideas cogently and clearly with respect to another instead of devolving into emotions that result in shouting matches that diminishes understanding and leads to a loss of personal respect for one another.
Understanding the World as a Whole
The humanities help us understand how the world works when considered as a whole. The interactions between different societies can create conflict as well as cooperation. The humanities help us analyze how cultures interact and how they deal with current and historical events.
One field of the humanities that has great personal meaning to many people, including Rev. Edward Moran, is theology and religious studies. Theology helps people understand and analyze the effects of religion on our culture and preserve the history of religious beliefs. Religious studies help to understand the multiplicities of religion in the world around us, their particular values and goals which go on to influence politics and the ways countries interact with one another, especially those countries that have very strong religious values and motives behind their international actions. One of the great problems of geopolitical thinking today has been the decision-making secular leaders engage in without considering the religious motivation that propels certain cultures. This has been evident in dealing especially with Muslim countries that form their countries as ‘theocracies’ often willing to die for their religion. Without appreciating the context of religion in the operation of their societies, policy decisions miss a major important dimension of their culture and tradition.
Preparing well for Life’s Challenges
The humanities help to prepare us for our biggest challenges by giving us an invaluable perspective to life in all we do. Without the strong skills of knowing the past, its wisdom and the multiplicities of expression shown throughout the ages, people who have studied the humanities bring more to relationships, the understanding of the world, where it has been and where it may be heading. These perspectives aid anyone in business, science and politics. Understanding the origin and expression of the values people hold aids immeasurably in communication, team-building and even the basic ability to listen well and make critical distinctions. Knowing how people think and the values upon which they base their decisions are the true keys to leadership because of the perspective classical humanities bring to life in general and those who study such subjects. People who have studied the humanities are valuable members of our society, our businesses, our schools, our churches, and our families.
Encouraging the Study of the Humanities
While many people believe that students should be steered away from the humanities, Rev. Edward Moran reminds readers that these fields of study are necessary for a fully rounded society. He makes a critical distinction between the way humanities are taught. He highly favors humanities taught from the classical perspective (ages of past thinkers, writers, artists, musicians, poets, scientists). He contrasted this approach with what he calls the ‘ideological ‘dumbed down’ humanities that see the world and its past through racial lenses, patterns of oppression and exploitation, Marxist categories of the ‘underclass’, ‘capitalists’, and ‘exploiters’. Students in universities today are all too indoctrinated with such approaches which turn them against people of other races, the United States as such studies devolve us into a kind of separated tribalism. Those who feel strongly about studying the humanities in the classical tradition should be encouraged to do so. They should avoid humanities studies that are based on Marxist ideology. The humanities studied from a classical perspective will continue to keep history alive while showing our society a path forward into the future. They should be studied at all educational levels, from young children through postgraduate studies.
Rev. Edward Moran underscores the importance of the humanities for preserving our past and our future. Having a strong background in the classical humanities will help our society move forward and deal with the challenges that come into the world as the digital world challenges us to maintain and share our own humanity. He recommends looking into how institutions like Hillsdale College, the University of Dallas, Clermont College and other institutions that revere and teach humanities from a classical perspective can train students in critical thinking, the wisdom of the ages while preparing them for an active life contributing to the common good.