Blog Post

NY Times: "Humanities Must Justify Their Worth"


The New York Times today has an article, "In Tough Times, the Humanities Must Justify Their Worth." Here's the url.


Really. Because the economy is bad, WE have to justify OUR worth? I don't think so. When the net worth of big business is several trillion dollars in the red, what is the net worth of the humanities that give meaning and value to life? When swindlers walk away with bonuses calculated against our loss, how much does it cost to think deeply and understand? When we are borrowing against the future because of the greedy politics of the MBA's, the derivative traders, and those who believe in unregulated flows of capital (straight into their pockets), we who value history, and truth, and art, and poetry, and critique, and thoughtfulness, and introspection, and the social power of culture, are the ones who have to justify ourselves? That is as bad a calculation as the ones made by Morgan Stanley, AIG, Bank of America, Lehmann Brothers, and on and on.  You don't get rid of bad credit by buying it.  You reconsider what counts, what has value, what teaches values.  That's the humanities, in the deepest and best sense.

We ARE value added.

Let the New York Times know. I did. Mine is Comment #53, reblogged here. Add your own!


Comment #53: Response to "In Tough Times, the Humanities Must Justify their Worth":
"Never have the humanities been needed more. The larger point of thehumanities are that, without critical thinking, without remembering thelessons of history, without appreciation of how the stories we make(witness Obama's speech last night!) shape our world, we are doomed torepeat mistakes, we are doomed to not understand. Science andtechnology don't make paradigms--humanists do: historians,philosophers, artists, journalists. If people are astonished at thecomplexity of Obama's thought, they don't remember their liberal artseducations. That complexity, the ability to stand back from crisis andperceive patterns that are bigger than the expedients that push us andtoss us and turn us, are exactly what the liberal arts train andsupport. Now more than ever. Futurist philosopher Alvin Toffler saysthat literacy in the 21st century isn't just reading, writing, and'rithmatic but the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn. Thehumanities are what give you the tools for complex learning and evenmore complex unlearning precisely because they provide the overview,context, and modes of critical thinking that allow us to create andalso to turn from a course that may seem doomed. "To Be Or Not To Be?"isn't just a question---it is a way of asking what the big questionsare. Humanities 101. It should be required of everyone."? cathyd, North Carolina



Special thanks to flickr community member dolcestinova who posted this lovely seascape and labelled it Rothko. Art makes us see the world differently and anew. Please click on the image for more beautiful photographs and full documentation.



I reblogged this post on Facebook where it is generating some interesting comments. I've asked permission to reblog the comments on my reblog here and will post if I receive such permission.


Here's one from IP lawyer (and musician) David Lombard Harrison:

"I had a friend who was president of a very successful bank (he retired
before the mess, btw) and he never hired a finance or business major to
a vice president position. He filled the top spots with humanities
majors only, reasoning that the business of banking was the business of


Eric Wertheimer, a professor at Arizona State University writes: "I have a soundbite that no one could find fault with: we teach people
to *read*. In all senses of the word. And we teach the people who teach
people to read."


Brilliant its simplicity, no?


I might try a variation on Eric's soundbite: And we teach people to *think.*



David Palumbo-Liu, a professor at Stanford University, writes:

of the most striking pieces of evidence that I have had regarding the
value of the humanities is teaching continuing education courses here
in the middle of the Silicon Valley. People working 60-70 hours a week
commuting to my literature classes that meet 7-10 pm. Some commuting
from as far away as Monterey. Why--they say that rather than heading
home, they want to talk about things that matter to them."
David also notes that the NY Times has closed its Comment section . . . last time I looked there were hundreds, almost of them about the importance and value of the humanities. Maybe we humanists require getting kicked around before we fight back but we need to do it lots more often!