Just about every humanities major I know has had to deal with belittlement on account of their interests. People are so quick to disdain the humanities and to ridicule students like me for pursuing them. When I was a child, and I first told my relatives that I wanted to be an author, they encouraged me and told me to read lots of books; however, as I got older, I could feel their steadily mounting anxiety over the fact that I wouldn’t be majoring in a STEM related subject. They began to push me towards different subjects and question the legitimacy of my passion for writing. Teachers tell us to follow our passions, but when we go home, our parents ask us what kind of living we can make off of a degree in English. It seems like no one really has any respect for the liberal arts anymore, even though just about every piece of information we consume nowadays comes from them. You need the humanities more than you think, and you rely on them more often than you care to admit. Here are 10 reasons why you shouldn’t disregard the humanities - or the young adults studying them.
If not for humanities majors, who would revise your essays?
We all know a first draft doesn’t become a second draft without your humanities friend. When you encounter an essay assignment on your own, you probably bellyache about it for weeks and then finally type up a draft the night before it’s due; then, after a brief skim-through, your first draft suddenly becomes your final one, and you hand it in to your professor knowing full well it’s pretty rough around the edges, to say the least. Such is the case for plenty of non-humanities majors.
But with a friend studying English, or a communications major on your side, your essay goes through a crucial process called “revision.” Humanities majors are the ones who help you reword all of your awkward phrases, show you the correct way to structure your essay, and catch all of the times you use “your” instead of “you are.” (No contractions in formal essays, remember?)
Humanities majors produce all of your entertainment.
Before Joe Russo directed Endgame and Infinity war, he majored in English and writing at the University of Iowa. Before Conan O’Brien became your favorite late night talk show host, he studied history and American literature. Before Oprah became - well, Oprah - she majored in Communications. We humanities majors provide the world with all of the entertainment it consumes, from Netflix rom-com novel adaptations to satire about the president. Say what you want about how useless a humanities degree is - it still won’t change the fact that your favorite stars and movies were born of the liberal arts.
We quite literally study humans; we know them best.
Whether it be through the moral quandaries of philosophy or literary character studies, we get you. We get humans. Most of our classes involve understanding human motivations and relationships. We constantly have to compose essays other people can easily understand, analyze if characters are acting in keeping with their personalities, and even investigate how people’s past actions have affected the present. Because of this, humanities majors are often more empathetic than others. For instance, a 2018 study found that medical students who were involved in the humanities were more empathetic, had greater emotional intelligence, and even possessed better spatial skills. We understand the people around us on a deeper level because we’re constantly studying humans in class.
It thus goes to show that, just as we understand others, we understand ourselves - or, we at least attempt to. Self-understanding is a difficult journey, but most humanities majors I know constantly analyze and evaluate themselves. We make it a point to see if we’re happy with where we are in life (hence our decisions to pursue career paths we’re actually passionate about). It’s easier to turn to introspection, after all, if you already scrutinize other humans every time you attend class.
We help preserve history.
Ah, the unsung hero: history majors. No one really enjoys memorizing dates or important war battles except for history lovers. And though most people don’t respect the subject themselves, we would be lost without those who study it. The whole point of preserving history is to prevent our past mistakes. The further we stray from history, the more prone we are to repeating our faults. If you don’t appreciate history, at least appreciate the people who are willing to study it in your stead.
We have the communication skills America needs (like right now).
Whether it’s English, linguistics, or just straight up communications, studying the humanities provides important writing and speaking skills for everyone. One of the reasons why American politicians and their parties can never agree is because they fail to communicate with one another. Particularly now, we need humanities majors who can effectively and eloquently communicate. We need people who can deliver speeches to unify the country, not to tear it to pieces.
We actually care about politics.
Very few people in the 21st century read the news. Even fewer actually enjoy it. History, political science, and social science majors, however, genuinely care about politics. They’re the ones picking up the slack for the rest of the Americans who can barely find the motivation to go vote. Humanities majors in general are often involved in activism and politics (case in point, yours truly).
In fact, lots of government work requires humanities skills.
Running the show isn’t an easy gig; it requires constant communication, composition skills, and well-read employees. Breaching the gap between different countries, for example, requires people who can overcome language barriers - or, in other words, linguistics majors. Lawyers, ambassadors, political analysts, even the editors who produce the news articles you (hopefully) read - they all come from the liberal arts. Sure, the current president came from the business world, but I can safely say I would have preferred if he’d stayed in that field.
One of the biggest reasons why no one takes Trump seriously is because he doesn’t have the communication skills to engender respect within the country’s citizens. No one looks up to a man who tweets like he does first thing in the morning.
We keep morality alive.
It’d be hard to say where the world would be right now without moral philosophy. Even if the only name you can recognize is Plato, philosophy has already influenced you more than you know. The common moral codes we live by - don’t steal, don’t lie - only arose because moral philosophers (the o.g. humanities majors) thought them up years ago. You can thank Socrates or Kant for the fact that you can take a trip to the grocery store without expecting to be robbed every day.
We make the world fun!
All other reasons aside, humanities provide the world with amusement! Everything from art museums to cartoons to action movies come from the liberal arts. No matter what your interests are, you can find a hobby within the humanities. If you love photography or mythology, painting or politics, dancing or watching Netflix, then you love the humanities. And there’s no good reason why you shouldn’t.
Humanities majors have to deal with countless figures in their lives discouraging their career paths or belittling their passions. But when we let these criticisms get to us, the world is left with no art, there are no more shows to watch, and, well, Donald Trump gets elected president. So the next time you’re thinking about questioning the choices of a humanities major, it might be a better course of action to just go home, turn on your favorite show, and thank them.