Seven reasons to be a humanities major

Allow me to persuade you to discard your business, accounting, biology, communications, or any other major connected, in some way, to the so-called STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) or social science fields. I propose you instead major in that which offers something of substance. Philosophy, classical studies, English, or a history major would be fine substitutes for any Hope pupil. Given my experience in majors of substance, expect my argument to be a variety of things. It will be clear. It will be compelling. It will be creative. It will pierce through your visions of shadows and shift your vision to the images of the true nature of things. I could go on, but I’ll let the argument speak for itself, especially given I grant no pardon to a dispassionately held belief.

There is an interesting dynamic that behooves me to observe. It is that given your pitiful allegiance to the technical fields and bureaucratic training programs, you lack the critical thinking abilities which act as the prerequisite to any constructive discourse or positive interaction with materials, such as what is being presented to you—assuming ye who I address is in fact a STEM or social science sycophant. I would of course expect nothing less than full comprehension of this content from my humanities course taking brothers and sisters. Aye, in many ways this is not for the enlightened but for the blind souls I see gripping lustily—but blindly—the edge of Charon’s boat as it slices its way into the hellish darkness of career and intellectual blindness.

This may be ironic. I might be sarcastic. You are even presently questioning my arrogance. This might be done in jest, in farcical play, in chaotic antagonistic sparring for the sake of the resulting bloodletting. Perhaps. Or perhaps every line of this article is carefully designed, like the wing of a Boeing 747, to carry the precious cargo of truth into the airport of your mind? No, this is not the case. This is a demonstration, an ironic one, of the places one can go if one goes to places one could not imagine—these unimaginable places are just those classes of the other majors you haven’t taken yet.  Unimaginable because they are so different in quality to the belligerently useless and mechanically oriented schooling posing as education in which you continue to persist. 

Understand, my prisoner, that I criticize not Hope. I criticize your weak will for your submission to the “practical,” the “pragmatic,” the “useful,” the “money-making,” the “sensible,” the “reasonable,” and the so-called “logical,” majors. The ones that “matter for the real world.”

 Let us consider the mind of an average male sophomore with average party-going skills and no stomach for any true adventure; but, who instead forever keeps an eye on the cute girl on the floor below (without ever asking her out). One who always attends chapel on Mondays but never Fridays. He despises class, and only wants to take those which are easy. He majors in business because he doesn’t understand what it is to learn and has never enjoyed reading a book. Because Hope is a liberal arts college (he isn’t sure what that means) he takes classes that make him read stuff written by Homer Simpson—or it might be Homer (he wasn’t sure of this, either)—but regardless he doesn’t care because he doesn’t read the sovereign of bards or anything else anyway. This is because he’s used to reading the menial guides of computer science classes and business jargon-filled compendiums of his major, and others in a similarly sorry state can’t read because of the rote memorization required to become a nurse or doctor. This sophomore will trod through class. If it is on Zoom he will be on his phone. If there is a minimum he will try his best to lower it. The fault for this is not totally with the sophomoric sophomore but instead because the very concept of that which it means to be educated has been lost.

To be educated one does not acquire inwardly, like a sponge collecting grime, the data and grit of facts and opinions. Education is not the accumulation of theories. It is not the ability to articulate things with profundity. It is not the ability to read nor is it the ability to write. It is not the ability to critically think.  It is not the ability to add numbers with precision. Listen, and listen close: to be educated is to acquire virtue. This, my friends, is the problem with the STEM and social sciences. They can not instill virtue for they are by their self-imposed limitations (limitations of hypotheses and methods and objectivity and such) disavowed from accomplishing this. Their only virtue is the scientific method, and this works about as well as a mother bird feeding her chicks gummy worms—the chicks end up choking and dying.  

Thus, truth fatal to your major 1: Non-humanities majors fail to instill virtue.

I could mention that it is philosophy majors that perform the best in law school. It is the philosophy major who scores highest on the entry exam and it is the philosophy major that performs greatest in medical school.  I could leverage this to appeal to your selfish nature and “pragmatic” approach to college and so sway you to defect to my cause. Instead, let me simply observe that the most pertinent things—of human nature, of the nature of objects, of the pursuit of knowledge, of the nature of subjects, of love, of death, of life, of hate, and of strife—are, like virtue, lacking from classes on physiology and business organization.  They are lacking from classes on human developmental psychology. They are lacking from classes on effective interdepartmental communication.  They are lacking from those classes because those classes have no soul. The humanities courses, as I said, are substantive. They force you to look at your own mortality and contemplate a very simple, short, and infinitely annoying question: “Why?” In short, it is only through humanities courses that the real truth of the matters that matter most are probed, massaged, and productively inquired into. Tell me, ye biochemist, of the tragedy and sorrow of human existence.  Tell me, ye business major, for what purpose you need to act ethically in investment. Tell me, ye accountant, what it means to drink a cup of coffee.  Tell me, ye mathematician, why you neglected to enter Plato’s Academy when you started out with such great knowledge of such great truths. Tell me, you STEM lover, is it true that argon is a noble gas? You consult your periodically consulted table of period elements and convey to me, in fact, one way or the other. Profound. Stunning. Soul-wrenching, this glorious truth: Argon is a noble gas. I then ask this STEM lover, “What is nobility?” They hem and haw and create excuses because they do not know nobility. I ask the humanities major and their face ignites with a smile because the fire of curiosity has been lit and the quest for the truest truths has begun.

Thus, truth fatal to your major 2: Non-humanities majors fail to convey truth about what matters, and often fail to convey truth at all

Let’s pick up the pace of this tirade.  Perhaps the simplest observation I could make about you non-humanities majors is one I hinted at before and it is that you attend classes only begrudgingly. It’s rare for any of you to actually enjoy learning. This is partly because you aren’t really learning anything at all, but it’s partially because what you do learn is two-dimensional, of finite value, and in many cases irrelevant to life.  Indeed, just because your classes fail to provide virtue and fail to provide truth they fail to provide to you interest, curiosity, and passion. Why do you condescend to take classes you don’t want to? As someone with majors in classical studies, philosophy, Christian history/theology, and a minor in English creative writing I can truthfully confess the only classes I’ve not enjoyed are those with “labs” and “data processing” and the “scientific method.” I feel nauseous just contemplating them. On the contrary, I have found it emotionally fulfilling to attend my humanities courses.

Thus, truth fatal to your major 3: Non-humanities majors fail to inspire passion

I would like to observe that you are capping your potential. The greatest people of any generation are not the scientists (though Einstein was great), nor the accountants, nor the government man or the business fellow. The greatest people are not the biologist or the human resources lackey, the lawyer or the doctor. The greatest people are the creative leaders. To accomplish genuinely incredible things in this world, and our world needs that bad, oh, so bad! Does not our world reek of poverty, oppression, death, injustice, racism, sexism, inequality, environmental pain, political corruption, needless consumption, etc., etc.? But forgive my interjection—to accomplish genuinely incredible things in this world, you must know the truth, achieve virtue, and have passion for that which you pursue.  This leads to great ideas and great men and women. The evil in this world is best combatted not with more accountants but with more servant leaders. Neither that which it means to be a servant, nor that which it means to be a leader, are elements present in non-humanities majors.

Thus, truth fatal to your major 4: Non-humanities majors cap your potential

I would also like to observe that the functions accomplished by non-humanities majors are well-met. We have a glut of science researchers. We have a glut of engineers. We have a glut of doctors. We have a glut of corporate Joe’s. There are even more than enough nurses to go around. Do you really think we need one more physical therapist, sports therapist, or chiropractor? One more sociologist or social worker? One more Keynesian economist? No, we do not. The community will function without you. You are simply not needed in those roles. I say this because I do have to concede that the necessity of technical training (I want my nurse to know how to put in a catheter just as much as you). However, I also concede that the need for those professions that require specialized knowledge is simply not there.  Let me provide you a need. We need truth-aware, virtue abiding, passionate dreamers with a concern for the oppressed. Again, this is a humanities course-specific product. It is outside the realm within non-humanities majors to provide such fulfilled individuals.

Thus, truth fatal to your major 5: We have too many non-humanities majors.

It might be argued to me that everything I am talking about can happen, should happen, outside of a college education. It could be argued that virtue and truth and passion and dreaming of great things belongs to the Christian church or to social justice—but that’s stuff outside of school,  you say, and it doesn’t matter if none of those things occur in college. Slog through, you say,  slog through and party on the weekends and all will be well. Stuff will fall into place along the way, and you don’t need to get the truth down now. I respond with something a STEM acolyte could appreciate: a fraction. The average American lifespan is 80 years. This means that your time in college is 1/20th of your entire life. We could play with the numbers for something more relevant. Up until the age of 18, you likely were forced into a government  (so-called “public” school, though at this point it’s a school where the things taught are not by the public but by the elite and certainly unreflective of the community) school. Your life hadn’t really begun in this time given you possessed no freedom and were still an adolescent. Given that many people retire in their early sixties, you essentially only have around 40 quality years of life left if we posit that the true pursuit of life begins around age 20, midway through your college career after you’ve become disillusioned with the common hedonistic way of viewing the undergraduate experience.  My point is that you have limited time (woe to mortality) and it would be foolish to spend the time you do have pursuing things with no eternal value. 

Thus, truth fatal to your major: 6: You will be dead soon, and non-humanities waste your time

Finally, I’d like to suggest that the humanities (and, by the way, art) majors are beautiful. To learn an instrument well, to learn intimately the feel and touch of a canvas and selection of paints, to learn the greatest stories in Western and Eastern cultures, to learn a language, to learn the theology of the ancients, to learn the history of the world, to learn the values and stories and names of people, to learn the meaning of meaning–it is a beautiful thing to be a humanities major. It is a beautiful thing to immerse yourself in the rich creativity of past ages and to look forward to the rich creativity of a coming age you yourself could become part of if only you were a humanities major. Contrast this vision with the communist-gray aura of the “empirical,” “useful,” “pragmatic,”  detritus and hubris of your non-humanities major(s), and weep for yourself and for that ugliness.  Notice, I include “arts” at the end because they stand as the moon to the sun. But the moon is still valuable.

Thus, truth fatal to your major: 7: The humanities/arts are beautiful

Come now, tepid Sophomore business major. You think that to be fulfilled is to be in a fraternity of brothers ingesting alcohol and whooping with craven laughter at pitiful jokes in pitiful insobriety. Or perhaps you are an infinitely studious computer science fellow, so concerned with binary your life has begun to resemble a computer in its mechanicality. Or perhaps you are an aspiring social worker, communications major, or environmental studies type—forego such paths that lead to death. True communication, true society, the truest environmental help is to be found in the humanities. To the neuroscientist, the aspiring doctor, and the biochemist—eschew those transitory, deadening classes and cling to something solid and infinite. 

Come, all you who are weary and need rest, and the humanities majors will provide to you revolutions like planets and dialectic spirals like vast galaxies that continue to reveal and will reveal beauty, truth, virtue, passion, time, potential, and need—that is, the Word come flesh teaches you lacking flesh to enter into true fleshly existence in its variegated complexity as you enter into attempted comprehension of what it means to be human, and what it means to produce art. Do not delay or a Virgil might lead you not through hell but to it, chastising you all along for neglecting the poetry which is the truest song of divinity. . .

Understand much of what I said I didn’t mean. I used rhetoric hanging dank like an XL Greek toga over an overly corpulent and sweaty Sophist, after all. A more honest approach would have been a balanced consideration of the fruit and benefit of all majors. Still, the very freedom to create something such as this is itself a freedom generally exclusive to the humanities and arts. Consequently, though I argued a single side (I thoroughly loved my neuroscience class and do love economics learning), let this piece stand as a demonstration of the creative places you too can travel in the humanities and arts. 

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