Christopher Graham, Guest Columnist
The humanities are a broad range of disciplines which include literatures, philosophy, languages, cultural studies and history. In recent years, the Jamaican Government has lambasted the relevance of the humanities, declaring that these subject areas are not critical to national development.
No one can seriously reject the necessity of science and technology to development. However, these dissenting claims against the humanities are baseless, and if we continue to devalue the humanities, we run the risk of creating generations of uncritical thinkers who despise past sacrifices, and act inverse to social and economic progress, ultimately undermining national development objectives.
The humanities foster the development of skills essential to understanding and improving the human condition. They demand the application of ethics, logic, critical thinking, research, effective communication, interpretation and innovation through abstract thought.
All these skills are essential building blocks in crafting public policy and state legislation; business management; gender mainstreaming; resource allocation; environmental regulation, and making technology compatible to human needs. Are these not beneficial and relevant in today's world? Most definitely!
Therefore, any company, diplomatic service, NGO, media corporation, public body or technology innovation firm will find invaluable the employment of individuals who pursued major or minor courses in the humanities.
Moreover, countries with the highest levels of human and capital development emphasise the study of humanities in their schools. If the detractors did accurate research, they would easily recognise that the Scandinavian nations, Japan, China, United Kingdom, Brazil, Canada, and the United States have long emphasised humanities in the education of their people.
Some of these countries have made mandatory the study of minority history or literatures in their schools, while others integrate humanities into science and business curricula. For example, in 2005, the city of Philadelphia passed legislation requiring all public-school students to take a course in African-American history in order to graduate.
WHY NOT US?
The leading nations have obviously recognised the importance of humanities to their future development. Why can't Jamaica?
Having considered the timeless skill set of humanities students and global development trends, the Jamaican Government, employers and parents should desist from devaluing the humanities.
Parents, in particular, influenced by callous statements against the humanities, prevent children from pursuing their passion for the humanities, pushing them into fields in which they have absolutely no interest. These children, instead of becoming great thinkers and doers of their generation, become irritated, mediocre professionals.
The humanities must, therefore, be encouraged and funded at all levels of the education system if the Government is truly serious about realising human and economic development objectives in this country.
Christopher Graham is a researcher and tutorEmail feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.