Monday, August 24, 2009

Why the Humanities Matter

I am a professor Italian, which means I teach the humanities (language, literature and culture). Just today, the administration of my university announced that it will make "differential budget cuts," meaning that not all colleges will bear the same cuts. Its criteria were based on, among other things, "economic impact" to the state. Of course, at my university, the Humanities will bear the highest cut.

What that means in practice is that those areas that are already well-funded will bear the smallest cuts, while those that have been starved over the years will bear a greater cut.

And while it's true that the Humanities do not prepare students for a career the way business colleges do, to say we have no economic impact is FALSE. After all, we teach students how to write, how to read critically, and how to speak foreign languages. Is there no economic impact if American students write poorly and are set out in the world?

But I've realized that the problem is that we, in the Humanities, do not present ourselves well to the public. The public at large does not know what we do, or why it's important. And that's why I started this blog. I hope, in the coming years, to explain to a general readership some of the importance of the humanities. I know that there are others who do this work, most of whom will do a better job than I; BUT most of what I've seen is for insiders--for other people who already accept the value of the Humanities as a given. It's preaching to the proverbial choir. I want, instead, to reach a literate but non-specialized audience!

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