Daily WTF: The Continued Devaluation of Liberal Arts and Humanities Degrees

 

This past Tuesday, Kentucky governor Matt Bevin unveiled his newest budget which, truth be told, was not as horrible as many people feared. However, the biggest black mark against it was not so much a cut but an explanatory comment he had about the type of funding he’d like to implement in 2018 towards public universities. His exact words were, “I want funding that incentivizes outcomes that are specific to the things people want. There will be more incentives to electrical engineers than French literature majors, there just will. All the people in the world who want to study French literature can do so, they’re just not going to be subsidized by the taxpayers like engineers will be, for example.”

I have one thing to say about that: fuck you, Governor Bevin.

Like many liberal arts and humanities majors, I am sick and tired of people devaluing my education, mocking my passions, and trying to curtail my options. I am sick of people scorning writing majors, theater majors, language majors, visual arts majors, and philosophy majors because they think we sit around all day drinking, getting high, and playing around. I am tired of people claiming that these subjects have no intrinsic or financial worth and that students somehow deserve to live in poverty or being insulted for pursuing them.

The liberal arts and humanities are absolutely vital for having informed, analytical, well-rounded, sane, and self-motivated citizens. These majors teach people to think for themselves, to develop their own industries, to be empathetic to people drastically different from them, to look outside the box and find creative solutions, to learn how to do in-depth research, and to learn how to manage their emotions. They can also be the stepping-stones to careers that people like Governor Bevin consider more profitable. Where do you think people develop an interest in anatomy, an understanding of perspective, an appreciation of historical context, and the skills to wade through research? How do you have cryptographers, translators, refugee aid workers, and engineers without the arts and humanities? How do people unwind and center themselves without philosophy, art, literature, and theater?

Supposedly, we live in a free society, which means that our citizens are free to choose their own interests and career paths. Our government should not be restricting funds to the careers they consider most profitable, thereby forcing educational institutions to cater to their whims and citizens to twist their passions and proclivities to something unsuited for them. You want more engineers? You want more doctors? You want more teachers? Pay better. Make higher learning cheaper. Subsidize schools more. Show appreciation for the people that do these things. Incentivize universities to improve their alumni relations and career networks so that graduates can actually find jobs in their career fields. Offer tax breaks to organizations that actually pay their interns. Teach kids what the fuck these careers are so that they can actually look forward to them.

But even if you do that, you’re going to have to make peace with the fact that people still need the arts and humanities. Language learning opens up pathways in our brains that make it easier to understand logical constructs and creates communication pathways between different cultures. Philosophy offers the logical tools necessary to understand ourselves, each other, the motivations behind movements, and ways to deal with life. Literature teaches us how to decode others’ thoughts, helps us feel less alone in the universe by connecting us with others, gives us a direct line to cultures throughout time and throughout the world, and offers solace in times of stress or distress. When you take away these avenues, you hurt innovation and you hurt people, forcing them to either numb themselves with opiates (figurative and literal) or simply implode. It’s not good, and it’s not what we as a country should want.

So if you want to tell Governor Bevin that you support the arts and humanities and you don’t support his attack on them, you can contact him here or on his Facebook page here. If you want something specific to say, feel free to copy and paste the following:

Governor Bevin,

I do not support your attacks against the arts and humanities. These subjects are vital to creating well-informed, analytical, and happy citizens, which you should know as a former humanities major. Attempting to defund them is attempting to curtail citizens’ rights to pursue their passions and strengths, and it seriously undermines the often life-changing work they accomplish. Stop demonizing the arts and humanities and start supporting your citizens.

Regards,

_________

* Image taken from http://www.artsactionfund.org/news/entry/national-arts-and-humanities-month/

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