How English (and philosophy, and history) Work

3 Dec

Here is an article by Paula Krebs, dean of humanities at Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts, appearing in Vitae. It’s initially about how Victorian writers might respond to the recent and unfolding events in Ferguson, MO, but eventually widens its focus to talk about what people educated in the humanities (e.g., English, history, & philosophy majors) bring to the table, work-wise, that more narrowly educated people do not. Here’s an excerpt:

My former boss used to talk about the time he met a police officer who, it turned out, was an alumnus of our university. They got to talking, and my boss was really impressed with the officer’s perspective on his job and his community, his human-relations skills, and his sense of himself as a professional. The officer said he owed it all to his education. He had, it turned out, been a philosophy major. … We are not making a strong enough case for a liberal-arts education that helps students to understand the differences and connections between the ways that social sciences, humanities, and sciences see and act on the world. We undermine our own universities when we allow our students and the general public to see higher education as job preparation alone, rather than job preparation that is also preparation to be citizens and leaders who understand a complex world. It’s preparation to be a worker who understands the connections between work and the world in which it takes place. It’s preparation to be a worker who can invent his or her next job, not just apply for it.

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