It is still hard to believe that I am already a month into my summer, which also means a month away from the bustling campus of PC. Summer has always been time for reflection upon my past time and the time ahead. Interning also helps the contemplating and (more often than not) questioning process. I’m not going to lie that I’ve never been questioning the value of my education at PC. Before PC, a liberal arts education was a strange and foreign idea; social sciences and humanities were even more unthinkable. For a hard-core science trained, (used to) aspiring doctor, clueless 18-year-old girl, I couldn’t think of a day I would discuss Nietzsche and transcendentalism in daylight Providence. Frankenstein was the craziest thing I could ever get through at the age of 18.
I came across this article through a friend (who was, by the way, a proud English major at a prestigious institution).
To quote the article, here is a point that I really like:
“STUDYING the humanities should be like standing among colleagues and students on the open deck of a ship moving along the endless coastline of human experience. Instead, now it feels as though people have retreated to tiny cabins in the bowels of the ship, from which they peep out on a small fragment of what may be a coastline or a fog bank or the back of a spouting whale….
Writing well used to be a fundamental principle of the humanities, as essential as the knowledge of mathematics and statistics in the sciences. But writing well isn’t merely a utilitarian skill. It is about developing a rational grace and energy in your conversation with the world around you.
No one has found a way to put a dollar sign on this kind of literacy, and I doubt anyone ever will. But everyone who possesses it — no matter how or when it was acquired — knows that it is a rare and precious inheritance.”
I have to agree with many points made by the author, mostly through my own experience working outside PC in the summer. At PC, I’ve had the opportunity to come across this concern various times, either with friends, professors, and alumni. Everyone has a very different outlook on it, but I can sense a common appreciation of the humanities and social sciences that is, sadly, dwindling in the general public. I have to admit that I’m not a great writer and thinker, but I do have an aspiration to become better and admiration for those who are good at them. Good writing, for me, has never been merely bundling a bunch of complex words together and rearrange them to make sound sentences that often confuse the general public. Great writing doesn’t impress people by making their heads turn, but instead, it excites them and helps creating a bridge between them and the world surrounding. It’s the kind of connection that often neglected or not appreciated enough, but elevated in great writing. I do believe a piece of writing says much about its writer – the way he or she thinks, the degree to which he or she connects with their worlds. Note that I use worlds (plural) instead of world (singular), as I believe in parallel, subjective worlds exist in people’s minds that are different from one another – an idea put forth by my most favorite philosopher Immanuel Kant.
All philosophical discussion asides, I do appreciate what the humanities have taught me during my time at PC so far. More than ever, I’m more confident about my writing, though I do make mistakes here and there. The more important thing is I’m more open to change, learn, and improve my self, my thinking, and my outlook on this world. That I still need to prove even more in the long run (and put it to work!), but in the meantime, I’m glad that I have the opportunity to look at my world a new way. I know that reading tons of articles on the values of a liberal arts education does not necessarily change someone’s perspective on it, or shine the way for some clueless college students (which lots of us are!), but then again, it helps us think about the issue once more. Thinking lesson has never old and will never be. More often than not, we underrate it.