Being Human: Defense of the liberal arts in an unoptimistic ecconomy

By Noelle Kozak

Yesterday I picked up my graduation robes.

I also  filled out my senior survey—which was probably one of the more ridiculous documents I ever filled out in my life. Mostly because of what it was asking, like how important I felt it was to learn…Mostly the question just annoyed me because the survey seemed to be asking me to determine the worth of someone else’s discipline. Undoubtedly, I sounded hypocritical at times because on instinct I filled in the little bubble that said multiple math or science were courses were not as essential.  Secretly I would like to admit that they are important, but how could I help my answer? I love the liberal arts. And given the choice again, I would always choose the humanities, the liberal arts education and English as my major. I don’t even have to think about it because my education has taught me how to be a human being.

However, Patricia Cohen writes some distressing news,  “Previous economic downturns have often led to decreased enrollment in the disciplines loosely grouped under the term “humanities” — which generally include languages, literature, the arts, history, cultural studies, philosophy and religion”(Cohen). Her further discussions on the rise of unemployment for all of us, is more of a reality for me now then it ever was before. It is so difficult to find a job that specifically asks for English majors and it is even more difficult to explain to your relatives what exactly you are going to do for a career when you are highly valuable though seemingly unwanted. Cohen cites a lack of confidence in the disciple for proving why we matter beyond exploring “what it means to be human”(Cohen). The article goes on to say that many people so feel our value to the economy, while others say it is not just just about the economy but what we can contribute to the thinking of society on the whole. In other words critical thinking and learning to care about issues which affect our world does concern the humanities and it concerns all of us (Cohen).

Learning how to be a human being only touches the scope of why I really love the humanities. In so learning how do be a compassionate, involved member of society, English and the humanities has made me well rounded and engaged with the world around me in a variety of topics. So while Cohen laments our future and whether or not we can afford to be human I’m going to remain optimistic that one day our value will be appreciated. Everything that I am I owe partly to my decision to be in English and to be in liberal arts, so, even if that means eating ramen noodles for a little longer, I believe and always will believe that it was well worth it.

Works Cited

Cohen, Patricia. “In Tough Times, Humanities Must Justify Their Worth.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 25 Feb. 2009. Web. 10 Apr. 2013. <;.

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