Humanities majors have been under constant attack for decades, but the intensity of the attack increased significantly over the last five to ten years. It’s good to see the negative perception of humanities degrees is lessening somewhat and that students are able to articulate the inherent value in pursuing a humanities degree.
It’s been a rough patch recently for the liberal arts and small colleges. Students are fleeing the humanities, foreign language programs are disappearing, and a spate of small, private colleges are shuttering their doors or courting merger partners, no longer able to make ends meet. So a recent survey of currently enrolled college students by Gallup and Strada Education Network will be welcomed as much-needed good news.
The Liberal Arts Advantage
The most striking result? Students majoring in the liberal arts (languages, literature, history, philosophy and the creative arts) were significantly more likely than those majoring in business, science and engineering, or the social sciences to strongly agree with each of the three items. For example, 73% of liberal arts majors strongly agreed they had at least one professor who excited them about learning, compared to 62% in the social sciences, 54% in science and engineering and 53% in business. Among liberal arts majors, 39% strongly agreed that professors cared about them as persons, compared to 29% of social science majors, 26% of business majors and 23% in science and engineering. Finally, 35% of liberal arts majors strongly agreed they had a mentor who singularly encouraged them; 26% in the social sciences and 22% of business and science and engineering majors felt the same way.
In order for society to thrive and grow, we need students entering the workforce with both S.T.E.M. and humanities degrees. Yes, we need people who can code, but we also need translators and other communicators to help facilitate the use of language. Instead of removing the humanities, maybe we should spend more time helping students realize the many ways they can put their liberal arts degrees to good use.