Why We Need the Humanities

There is a quote that educators often like to use: “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” This fire, drive, way of thinking, passion, or whatever you want to call it (Shaggy Monster) is what sets people apart. One of my favorite columnists, David Brooks, wrote a great piece about that today:

History for Dollars

When the going gets tough, the tough take accounting. When the job market worsens, many students figure they can’t indulge in an English or a history major. They have to study something that will lead directly to a job.

So it is almost inevitable that over the next few years, as labor markets struggle, the humanities will continue their long slide. There already has been a nearly 50 percent drop in the portion of liberal arts majors over the past generation, and that trend is bound to accelerate. Once the stars of university life, humanities now play bit roles when prospective students take their college tours. The labs are more glamorous than the libraries.

To read the rest of David Brooks’ column, click here.

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2 thoughts on “Why We Need the Humanities

  1. I have wondered about the source of this quote for 20 years. I love it and its essence. I also love Yeats, I just don’t think he is the source. My rudimentary web research differs. Still, I want to get to the bottom of this. Maybe Paul Rasmussen can help–or maybe it doesnt matter. But, I think it does. Thinking of Yeats as a quote poacher makes me uncomfortable. Thanks for listening (or reading)

    • I’ve heard this too. I think it’s one of those things that if repeated enough times (and on the interweb, that certainly happens), it just becomes the truth. I can’t find the source for that particular quote anywhere nor can I tell if Plutarch really wrote “the mind is not a vessel that needs filling but wood that needs igniting”. I shall edit to make you (or Mr. Yeats posthumously) more comfortable.

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