“We are drowning in information, while starving for wisdom.”
That epigram from E.O. Wilson captures the dilemma of our era. Yet the solution of some folks is to disdain wisdom.
“Is it a vital interest of the state to have more anthropologists?” Rick Scott, the Florida governor, once asked. A leader of a prominent Internet company once told me that the firm regards admission to Harvard as a useful heuristic of talent, but a college education itself as useless.
Parents and students themselves are acting on these principles, retreating from the humanities. Among college graduates in 1971, there were about two business majors for each English major. Now there are seven times as many. (I was a political science major; if I were doing it over, I’d be an economics major with a foot in the humanities.)
I’ve been thinking about this after reading Fareed Zakaria’s smart new book, “In Defense of a Liberal Education.” Like Zakaria, I think that the liberal arts teach critical thinking (not to mention nifty words like “heuristic”).
So, to answer the skeptics, here are my three reasons the humanities enrich our souls and sometimes even our pocketbooks as well.
First, liberal arts equip students with communications and interpersonal skills that are valuable and genuinely rewarded in the labor force, especially when accompanied by technical abilities.