Why I stand by the Humanities.


“What are you concentrating in?”
“Literature, so I’ll be taking mostly English and Russian courses.”
“Oh…then…what do you want to do?”

And thus begins almost every conversation with every person about my college choices. What do you want to do: the question that every humanities concentrator must be sick and tired of. People have labeled our type as pre-unemployment. They have scoffed at our studies of the theoretical, the cultural, the literary. But I stand by my choice to study Literature — a concentration where my only goals are to read books and to learn a second language.

Why do I stand by my choice? Surely I do not have a pre-med path or some scientific route into the business or research world? No, indeed, humanities degrees may not have clear-cut pathways into the work force. I may not have a job lined up as a research assistant in some laboratory or a path to medical school. No, humanities aren’t even as closely tied to the work force as social sciences, some may say, which lead directly to public policy, human resources, and being one of those “good people.”

But humanities is not for naught. The next three years here, I will be taking fourteen courses in which my job will be to read great works of English and Russian literature. I will analyze cultural changes across the world as found in the development of their arts. Others will study comparative religions, the development of philosophical beliefs, and the cultural stories told to the young. And these students will begin to understand people — not the genetic make-up or the chromosomal functions or the insert–scientific–term–I–will–never–understand–here — but the fundamental differences of people on a personal and cultural basis. We will read books, watch movies, scan artwork, and see how different medias of ideas affect different people.

We do not always claim to know what we want to do with this knowledge. Some do, some don’t. But we know that our four years, three years of concentration, in, well, humanity will be an enriching academic process of connection. People of different cultures will become closer as we travel throughout the world, engaging in a language once unknown, a culture once misunderstood, and a perspective once unseen. With these thoughts in mind, be sure to keep in mind the humanities, from Classics to Visual and Environmental Studies.

(And we promise, the label of “pre-unemployment” should retain a meaning only in jest and not in reality. Careers will be available. I hope.)

Sean Frazzette ’16 (sfrazzette@college) wants to be a journalist. Or a teacher. Or a lawyer. Or a businessman. He just wants a house, okay?