Humanities, liberal arts degrees are vital to our society

July 2, 2013

Regarding Alexandra Petri’s June 29 op-ed column “Oh, the humanities!”:

As another happy but often derided English major, it has long been a rant of mine that so many American universities have been devolving into expensive vocational schools. As far as I can tell, large numbers of colleges no longer offer students anything resembling an education, let alone a higher one. How is it that anyone who graduates with a bachelor of fill-in-the-blank degree can know so little about so many things?

Once I worked with a woman who held a bachelor of science degree from a prestigious school right here in Washington but had no idea who Tchaikovsky was. This is a woman who did not grow up under a rock and who was very good at her information technology job, but who essentially knew nothing much at all about anything falling under the heading of liberal arts or the humanities. Needless to say, meaningful and interesting conversation with her on any subject other than work and certain glitzy elements of pop culture was a pipe dream.

Although most of my friends think I’m a bit of a lunatic on this subject, I firmly believe that university in its intended form is not for everyone, and that study of the humanities is essential to our survival as contemplative creatures. Getting an education is not the same thing as getting the credentials for a job. If you want to be an accountant or a software developer or a business manager, then get thee to a vocational school. If you want to be an educated person who genuinely strives to understand the vast and complex body of knowledge the world has amassed, then study liberal arts.

Linda Thél, Reston

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