Nicholas Kristoph:  Study the Humanities – “We are drowning in information, while starving for wisdom.”

Dear Commons Community,

Nicholas Kristoph in his New York Times column today, opens with E.O Wilson’s quote:  “We are drowning in information, while starving for wisdom.”   He then goes on to make the case for why more college students should be taking course in the humanities:

“…E.O. Wilson captures the dilemma of our era. Yet the solution of some folks is to disdain wisdom.

“Is it a vital interest of the state to have more anthropologists?” Rick Scott, the Florida governor,once asked. A leader of a prominent Internet company once told me that the firm regards admission to Harvard as a useful heuristic of talent, but a college education itself as useless.

Parents and students themselves are acting on these principles, retreating from the humanities. Among college graduates in 1971, there were about two business majors for each English major. Now there are seven times as many.

Kristoph then provides three reasons for studying the humanities:

“First, liberal arts equip students with communications and interpersonal skills that are valuable and genuinely rewarded in the labor force, especially when accompanied by technical abilities…

Second, We need people conversant with the humanities to help reach wise public policy decisions, even about the sciences…

Third, wherever our careers lie, much of our happiness depends upon our interactions with those around us, and there’s some evidence that literature nurtures a richer emotional intelligence.

He concludes:

“Literature also builds bridges of understanding. Toni Morrison has helped all America understand African-American life. Jhumpa Lahiri illuminated immigrant contradictions. Khaled Hosseini opened windows on Afghanistan.

In short, it makes eminent sense to study coding and statistics today, but also history and literature.”

Wisdom indeed!



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