This is Lily. Lily is a freshman about to begin college. She has a lot of choices as to what to major in and what classes to take. There is literature, computer science, biology, mathematics,
physics, anthropology, psychology, sociology. It can be pretty
confusing. Her parents have been encouraging her to pursue a STEM-related degree and to take classes in the sciences and math so that she will actually find job after college.
Her parents tell her: “In this economy and the price we are paying for your education, you really need to do something that
will make employers want to hire you. You need a practical degree dear.” There is a new and narrowing vocational emphasis in the way students and their parents think about what to study in college. Parents tend to emphasize employability after college. In 2013, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences released a report that the teaching of the humanities has fallen on hard times. The percentage of bachelor degrees at U.S. colleges and universities awarded in the humanities was at 7.6% in 2010 compared to above 15% in the 1970’s. Studying the humanities should be like standing among students on the open deck of a ship moving along the endless coastline of human experience. Instead, now it feels as though people have retreated to tiny cabins in the bowels of the ship, from which they peep out on a small fragment of what may be a coastline or fog bank or the back of a spouting whale. What many undergraduates do not know — and what so many of their professors have been unable to tell them — is how valuable the most fundamental gift of the humanities will turn out to be. That gift is clear thinking, clear writing and a lifelong engagement with literature. The humanities are valuable in our day and age. But, with the current trends, will the humanities survive the 21st century? Will the humanities have a place in standard higher-education curriculum? That’s where we come in. Student Advocates for the Future of the Humanities or StuHum believes that the answer to these questions lies in the hands of current students like Lily. We believe that it is our mission, as students, to ensure a future for the humanities in higher education across the globe. What we must do is insist — loudly and repeatedly — that the humanities education aspires to make people not merely successful but also fulfilled, not merely autonomous thinkers but also contributing citizens, engaged and creative participants in the community. We must show how grounding in the humanities can put political and social issues into perspective and provide new perspectives on our values and beliefs. So how are we spreading our message? Well, it is definitely a team effort, and we want you to join our team. As the American civil rights activist, Cesar Chavez, once said “Students must have initiative; they should not be mere imitators. They must learn to think and act for themselves — and be free.”
Through reaching out to other students using social media, like Twitter and Facebook — by sharing short videos and articles — StuHum believes that students can help communicate the importance of the humanities in higher education and its role in ensuring a vibrant future on both an individual and a societal level. By engaging with and connecting to fellow students online, Lily has the power to lay down the foundations for this crucial and timely discussion on university campuses and to advocate for the humanities.
So Like us on Facebook at facebook.com/StuHum and be sure to follow us on Twitter at StuHum. Use the StuHum hashtag to contribute to the discussion and we’ll be sure to retweet you on our page. Ultimately, we believe that it is today’s students will be responsible to influence popular opinion and to guarantee a future for the humanities. So join our effort at StuHum and become a Student Advocate for the Future of the Humanities.