David Brooks plugs the humanities

New York Times columnist David Brooks stood up today for the value of a humanities education, even during hard times when students are worried about whether it will help them get a job.

Studying humanities can improve your ability to read and write, he argues. “You will have enormous power if you are the person in the office who can write a clear and concise memo.”

Studying humanities exposes you to the “language of emotion,” he says, which is important for taking a technically brilliant innovation to the masses via effective advertising and branding.

Perhaps most important, he argues that studying humanities helps you get in touch with “The Big Shaggy,” i.e. the beast within all of us that tempts us to misbehave (think sex scandals) or be overconfident or arrogant in the face of risk (think oil spill), while at the same time gives us the drive to excel (think Kobe Bryant).

Brooks writes, that “…over the centuries, there have been rare and strange people who possessed the skill of taking the upheavals of thought that emanate from The Big Shaggy and representing them in the form of story, music, myth, painting, liturgy, architecture, sculpture, landscape and speech. [They] developed languages that help us understand these yearnings and also educate and mold them.”

Click here to read the whole column.

Brooks was the Frey Foundation Distinguished Visiting Professor in UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences in 2008.


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