Why Study Humanities?

It is that time of the year again. Board results are out, scores tallied, hearts fulfilled or broken. The futures of a new generation must be charted- based on these results. Some will sit for entrance examinations to some of the “prestigious” institutions. Others will attempt to go to college overseas. Both students and their parents are anxious. Many questions cloud their minds. One of the most prominent questions is the one about which subject to take up. Until class 10, this was a non-issue. For 11 and 12, the students had to select a particular stream for study. In India, there are three main streams- Humanities, Commerce and Science. After twelve, the student must choose one subject to specialize in. (Although some colleges do offer multiple majors).

 

 

 

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By and large, Indians harbour unsavoury attitudes towards the Humanities subjects. This is quite absurd in a country known around the world for its rich culture and heritage, in terms of literature, music, theatre, dance and art. The general view is that a student of humanities will not be able to earn much money after he or she graduates. Even if he/she does, it will not be as much as a science or commerce graduate earns. In the twenty first century, such a mindset is dangerous, and also mostly untrue. However, Indians love hove holding onto their primitive stereotypical beliefs, and aspiring humanities students often have to face numerous hurdles when it comes to convincing their parents and their (suddenly concerned) relatives about their decision. In many cases, they are forced to give up their ambitions and take up more “conventional” lines of study in science or commerce. Others who are lucky get to pursue the subject of their choice, but may continue to face derogatory remarks throughout the course of their college life.

 

 

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It is in fact quite remarkable that despite these negative connotations associated with the stream, the humanities thrive on the contributions of millions of students and teachers even today. For the skeptics who have been brainwashed into believing that studying humanities is an unwise decision or a decision one should be ashamed of, here are some reasons why the humanities matter, and will always matter:

  1. Humanities subjects are eye openers: The humanities subjects, such as literature, history, sociology, philosophy, political science, anthropology, media and so on help students gain deeper insights into the world around them. They encourage students to question what they have learnt until now. This questioning is very important when it comes to furthering the dept of one’s knowledge. The humanities allow students to perceive larger patterns which are not always visible to the naked eye. Students’ analytical and critical thinking skills are refined- they are able to understand societies, cultures and institutions around the world.
  2. Humanities is an inter disciplinary area: All humanities borrow from and are enriched by each other. This allows for a broader prospect on each and every topic. The student is bound to think and learn outside the box, expanding his or her views and knowledge in every possible way.

 

 

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3. Humanities foster creativity: Without creativity, the world would be a dull and lifeless place. Creativity is an essential aspect of every part of daily life. Not only is it required for fields like literature, advertising, film-making, music and so on, it is also a vital aspect of areas such as public policy. Imagine a world without recreation or entertainment. It is indeed ironic that the very people who love watching movies and listening to music, created by people working in the humanities, are the ones who prevent their children from entering that very field.

4. Humanities generate empathy: All humanities subjects lead students to learn about what people have done, created, said, discovered, experienced and understood. This generates empathy and compassion, which are vital qualities in a society that is being torn apart by violence and terror every day. A deeper sympathy and comprehension of other people’s needs, wants, conventions, customs and cultures leads to a more just and peaceful society. If every body were to be kinder and more responsive to the needs of others, the world would see less sorrow and unhappiness.

 

 

 

 

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5.Humanities help students see through oppressors’ motives: In modern society, no one is actually free. Our lives are regulated by the state and the economy, to pit it in the simplest of terms. Humanities students, who must peruse historical narratives, philosophical treatises and bodies of literature that have addressed and criticized these institutions are equipped to see through these modes of control.

6. Humanities are important for a better future: The world at large is already paying the price for mindless advances in science and technology. The natural resources are drying up, climate change is  poised to endanger the lives of millions around the globe. Wars are tearing apart countries at this very moment. At such a juncture as this, humanities are all the more valuable. In order to gauge the future possibilities and textures of the human experience, to understand where the human race is heading, the study of humanities is a must. Even by those who primarily focus on Science and Technology.

 

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7.Humanities pay the bills: Last but not the least, with the rapid development of digital media and the expansion of globalization, more and more jobs are being generated in the field of humanities. Apart from conventional areas like academia, news media, authorship, publication and so on, humanities students can also find a place in other industries as strategists, policy makers, publicists, editors, video production and curators.

 

 

Written By : Proiti Seal Acharya

 

 

 

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