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9 reasons to study the humanities

In the past decade, education has been heavily STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) centered. A core effort of the Obama Administration, the White House archives cite $1 billion in private investment for improving STEM education as part of the President’s Educate to Innovate campaign. At the same time the humanities have seen a drop in popularity. The Atlantic cites a nearly 50 percent drop in students majoring in English and 45 percent drop in students majoring in history since 2007. Despite low enrollment, there are many reasons get your degree in the humanities; here are nine.

  1. Professional development skills. A major focus of classes in the humanities is improving professional skills like communication, confidence, innovation and organization. Courses in the humanities are often based in themes in the workforce, such as Business and Technical Writing or Leadership Ethics. This core tenet of the humanities gives students essential skills for entering the professional world after college.
  2. Inspire creativity. This part of the humanities is not just for art students. Studies in the humanities encompass a range of areas so students in this field have the freedom to be creative and combine their interests into a specialized education.
  3. Great opportunities. As previously mentioned, the humanities offer a great amount of freedom for students looking to study in this area. Just at the University of Maine alone, there are multiple scholarship opportunities, internships and job opportunities in the humanities. The Clement and Linda McGillicuddy Humanities Center and the UMaine College of Liberal Arts and Sciences list a combined eight scholarship opportunities with preference given to students in the liberal arts and humanities.
  4. Encourages social justice. Core values of the humanities include studying perspectives that differ from one’s own, telling stories of the past and paving social paths for the future. This, through modes such as literature, film, poetry, art, and journalism, encourages representation and social justice.
  5. Teaches skepticism. Another freedom of the humanities is the fact that a large portion of it is up for interpretation. There is no one understanding of a Dickinson poem, or one truth in philosophy, so humanities students are taught the critical skill of skepticism. Humanities students learn how to question reality and to form their own explanations and ideas from this skepticism.
  6. Cultivates informed citizens. Humanities courses of study are often dedicated to teaching students how we got to the point we are at as a society. This informs individuals of how their own reality was built, and how that reality differs from people all across the world in different climates and cultures. This broadens the perspective of students in the humanities and encourages a wider understanding of the world as we are citizens in it.
  7. Inspires students to ask critical questions. One misconception about the humanities is that they are not as research dedicated as STEM fields may be. However, that is not the case as the humanities are dedicated to asking hard questions about the past, the future, oneself, one’s perception, and motivations, centered around discovering a truth that is in itself always up for questioning.
  8. Challenges social norms. Just as the sciences question scientifically accepted norms, as scientists did when they discovered the atom wasn’t actually the smallest form of matter, humanities question long determined socially accepted ideas around human interaction and expression. This effort, like those of science fields to advance understanding, work to develop a better grasp on social fields in order to build a better future for generations to come.
  9. Fosters community. Humanities students, like their name implies, are centered around human interaction and connection. Students in humanities fields work to contribute to human understanding, and in turn build a stronger personal, local and universal community.

There are so many benefits of having a liberal education, and the humanities can give you that opportunity. While it may seem like the future is heading in a STEM-centered direction, the humanities are working alongside the sciences to define and build knowledge around other, equally important, aspects of the world. So, if you think the humanities aren’t for you, it might be beneficial to consider these nine reasons for why a humanities degree could be of importance.

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