Introducing a New Liberal Education Course for Fall 2020
LBED2850: Why Humanities? Applying the humanities to our world
Instructors: Aaron Stout and Janay Nugent
Days/Times: MW 10:30 - 11:45 a.m.
This new course is designed to engage students in a broad conversation about the value of studying the humanities. Since the mid-nineteen-fifties, the pursuit of the humanities has been regarded as a non-essential field of study. People laugh about English majors who are only qualified to be baristas, history majors who are effective grocery store clerks, and philosophers who merely offer perspectives without solutions. Many voices in society perceive the study of the humanities as a frivolous luxury that does not contribute to the economic wellbeing of the country. Yet university presidents and organizations, such as the Conference Board of Canada, cite the skills of a liberal arts major as being “twenty-first century skills” that are in greater demand in our current and future job markets than the technical skills of professional programs. The President of Yale recently argued that, “in our complex and interconnected world, we need leaders of imagination, understanding, and emotional intelligence – men and women who will move beyond polarizing debates and tackle the challenges we face. To cultivate such leaders, we must value and invest in the humanities.” Humanist thinking is essential for citizenship and facing the ever-changing problems of our current society.
To understand the importance of the humanities to big-scale issues, this course begins with an investigation into the elusive and challenging task of defining what the humanities are, and what it means to think like a humanist. Building on this knowledge, students will engage in problem-based learning to offer solutions to a “real-world problem”. By seeking to understand a complex modern issue through the lens of humanities, students will begin to explore the complex and creative, big picture thinking necessary to solving modern day issues. At the end of the course, the students will be able to assess the assertion that now, more than ever, we need students trained in the humanities.