Several years ago, a college newspaper editorial board wrote an editorial suggesting that the college get rid of “useless” humanities departments, such as foreign languages and history, and funnel more resources to “useful” departments. In response, I wrote the following letter, but I never sent it. At Learnroll Immerse, we believe that education is more than grades and skill development. Grades and job skills are certainly part of the equation, but real learning can be about grades, job skill development, informed citizenship, and living a good life.
Here is my lightly edited letter.
Dear editorial board,
If you believe that the goal of a college education should be to churn out the next generation of mid-level bean counters who had their most profound thought while watching “Hot Tub Time Machine”, then you are absolutely correct, specialization is the answer. Yet I believe that our college wants and expects more of its alumni.
For example, when a physician, tells a patient that he or she has cancer, do we want the doctor to have a foundation in psychology? When a drug company offers the doctor gifts for prescribing a particular drug, do we want the doctor to understand ethics and philosophy? When the patient can’t pay for their chemotherapy, do we want the doctor to understand public policy and politics? When the doctor hires staff and makes decisions about his or her practice, do we want the doctor to understand economics and accounting? I sure hope so!
Do you actually believe that someone can be successful in publishing with only a background in communication and English? Who is going to edit and market the books and articles about science and politics and business? I suggest that you actually talk to some alumni working in publishing before you decide what is valuable. And while you are at it, why don’t you ask anyone working in a global business, a government agency, a branch of the military, or a social service or humanitarian organization about the value of speaking another language?
Last, but not least, is the sole purpose of education for the students and colleges to be “profitable?” Is there no value in explaining a painting to your kid? Is there no value in seeing a show or listening to a concert? Often it is only through the arts that we can grapple with life’s biggest questions. Perhaps if you spent a bit more time broadening your horizons and taking a variety of classes, you’d realize that the boundaries between departments are arbitrary and in constant flux. True knowledge is inherently interdisciplinary.