Education in the Humanities: Promoting Inclusion and Challenging the Ordinary
Career Path : Liberal Arts
Humanities educations promote diversity of opinion and inclusion for richer viewpoints. They value alternative ways of being in the world and eschew the confines of conformity.
There is no right answer. Most humanities teachers, be they historians or literary experts will tell students that a response is valid so long as it stands up to critical scrutiny. In a liberal arts college classroom, students are evaluated by their sound argumentation and their ability to cast new light on old ideas – and by their daring challenge of the status quo. Thriving humanities classrooms are alive with conversation and debate. They whither under pressure to conform, and are stifled by homogeneity.
Unlike enthusiasts of other more objective disciplines, the humanities student welcomes the uncertainty of the subjective and revels in the notion of the unknown. The skills one develops by studying creative production and making contributions to the field are varied and far-reaching. In fact, this diverse skill-set is well suited to the kinds of challenges our society faces in the post-post modern world.
Every voice counts
If there is no one right answer, then everyone’s voice deserves to be heard – no individual is held aloft above the others. Such is the promise and the potential of a truly inclusive learning environment. The subjects under study at an alternative liberal arts college – philosophy, literature, music, fine art and history – all encourage a democratic exchange of ideas and perspectives. Indeed, they thrive on the comparison of divergent opinions. Whether in small groups or through whole-class discussions, teachers often prompt students to get talking, and to give equal consideration to each and every voice.
Resisting the status quo
Some of the most inspiring figures in the humanities – the monumental artists, writers, thinkers and musicians – were rule breakers. At an innovative alternative liberal arts college, students learn about pivotal movements in history, moments were the boundaries of the status quo were challenged and pushed back. They also become aware that these revolutionary figures were not always embraced in their own time; that progressive ideas are often rewarded with ridicule and exile. Nevertheless, humanities enthusiasts understand that one must be critical of one’s own society, and resist the “ways things are.” They value alternative ways of being in the world and eschew the confines of conformity.
Humanities students are often confronted with the question: “What exactly is your degree good for?” Although the applications of a literature or fine arts degree may not be immediately apparent in today’s consumer-driven society, there are always opportunities for critical thinkers. In fact, employers are increasingly focused on hiring versatile workers, individuals capable of performing a variety of tasks, thinking on their feet, and collaborating creatively with others. Whether they are making a living as writers, visual artists, social activists, politicians, lawyers, journalists, or any other number of viable professions, humanities students are indeed capable of challenging the “word” and changing the world.
Visit Shimer College for more information about studying at a small and creative liberal arts college.