Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Keeping the Essence of What Makes Us Humane:

The Beauty and Brilliance of the Humanities in All Educational Institutions and Its Importance to the World

Guest Blogger: Nicole Stephens

I walked down the street yesterday morning and I saw a yellow flower and the flower began to dance!
I looked out the window and the tree that greets me every morning started to sing!!
I was sitting in the park and a blue bird started speaking French to me!
Each time I experienced those profound meetings, I smiled, and my heart was filled with glee!!
Oh -where would I be if I did not have that flower, tree, bird- dance, sing, and speak French to me!!

I’m simply tired of the disrespect-the disrespect of what makes us humane! As educators, I often ponder- do we really examine what makes our students (us) get up in the morning and what helps them (us) go to sleep at night? My current blog will help some understand my deep and profound concern about how the humanities and liberal arts education at the university level, K-12 education, and even the world is embraced-I mean truly embraced on a level that helps us understand the importance of what makes us human.

I was reading the New York Times just the other day and I wanted to scream. I had to take a deep breath. The headline under the opinion section read: Do Colleges Need French Departments (October 17, 2010)? It caught my attention, mainly because I majored in International Studies (French) and studied Biology as an undergraduate at North Carolina A & T in Greensboro and I wanted to know what issue they had now about this important major. The article went on to explain that The State University of New York at Albany is cutting most all their foreign language degree majors (French, Italian, Classics, and Russian) and their theatre program. The article focused on cutting the humanities in general from educational institutions not only at this particular university, but universities and colleges all over the United States, because of budget issues.

In my humble opinion, nothing that makes us humane should be cut from the budget from higher education or K-12 educational institutions. Many reading this blog may say that this is not realistic or even sensible when you consider the fact that we are in a technologically driven world that must focus mainly on math, sciences, business, and other majors that are “more important” and bring in more money to the institution. These STEM majors and skills related to them are vitally and profoundly important if we are to survive in this century and beyond. However, I am a firm believer that the humanities are what make us competent, creative, interesting, and even wonderfully profound for all that teach them, take them, or just even embrace them.

At NC A & T, my soul became more beautiful (full of knowledge and deep hunger about many different things) and so did all my other peers that took a similar path. I did not major in education as an undergraduate. However, I took the PRAXIS (formerly NTE) exam and passed with flying colors, simply because of the make-up of the test during that time. The test focused on how much I knew about the Liberal Arts. I passed not because of brilliance or because I belong to MENSA but because of my education in the humanities. My interests grew in many areas including business and biology. Creativity is needed for marketing. The body is a creative gift that moves in lovely ways. I took French, Spanish, History, Art, Music, Philosophy, and any thing that made me smile and then I was able to understand those things that made me marketable for the world today.

This takes me back to my opening blog statement-what makes our students (us) get up in the morning. It is the music that greets us on our alarm clocks and cell phones. It is the dance that we (our students) cannot wait to get to on Friday night, but know that we must be successful on the Chemistry test or finish checking the test so we can enjoy our “night of creative flow.” How many of us cannot wait until we see that special play on Broadway or that basketball player fly poetically to the basket net?

As educators, do we take the time to tell our students to look out the window and admire the natural beauty that the Creator has given us for free?

Educational institutions must find a way to keep humanities in our arenas. It is what keeps us sane and it is what keeps the world humane.


  1. You may be right: "Educational institutions must find a way to keep humanities;" but you have also identified some of the problems: "we are in a technologically driven world" and "because of budget issues." I think, ultimately, it is because we function more like businesses than educational institutions. In most cases, such institutions are just business seeking to make money and merely pretending to provide education; hence they are more than willing to ignore the value of the humanities which has been the foundation of education. The crucial question, then, seems to be how to "find a way to keep humanities." The education or miseducation of generations "in a technologically driven world" may depend on it.

  2. I hope there is a way we can balance what is the right thing to do such as keeping humanities with what an institution needs to do to survive financially? I actually teach computers/ technology and regret not having enough interest in humanities or social sciences when I was young--it amazing what life teaches us (not computers!)

  3. Nicole:

    You so nicely describe the intangible rewards of studying languages and the humanities. I'd just add one prosaic, tangible reward. I learned much more about the structure of English grammar and syntax as a French and German major than I ever did in English courses. Just as traveling abroad helps us know our own country better, learning a foreign language helps us know our own English language better.