Humanities are for Humans

Humanities in higher education While we feature many math/science contests in our Ultimate Guide to Top High School Contests Guide there is always a comparable shortage of humanities research opportunities and humanities awards/competitions. Perhaps one of the reasons for this connects to the fact that humanities funding across U.S. colleges has decreased at a rapid rate in recent years. The subject and the study of humanities in higher education, especially as it pertains to admissions and job placement, has been in the news MITInspirea fair amount in recent months. As Brown University student Noah Fitzgeral recently wrote for the Huffington Post, “Higher education seems to continually undervalue the humanities.”

Fitzgeral cites Brown University President Christina Paxon in confirming that rather than step away from the humanities fields, and thus encourage future students to do so as well, we should instead work to “make the case for humanities.” At Application Boot Camp, we agree with President Paxon’s statement confirming:

“We don’t want a nation of technical experts in one subject. We want a scintillating civil society in which everyone can talk to everyone. That was a quality that Alexis de Tocqueville wrote of when he visited the United States at the beginning of the 1830s. Even in that era before mass communication, before the telegraph, before the Internet, we were engaged in an American conversation that stretched from one end of the country to another. In a similar manner, Martin Luther King Jr. sketched a “web of mutuality” in his “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” fifty years ago this year. We want politicians who have read Shakespeare–as Lincoln did. We want bankers and lawyers who have read Homer and Dante. We want factory owners who have read Dickens.”

Further, President Paxon’s statement is arguably well-supported with the aid of a recent Brigham Young University study. As the study confirmed, “A significant number of humanities graduates are hired in business, communications, technology and fields other than ‘conventional’ careers for humanities graduates such as teaching or law. The study, which shows the results of numerous surveys conducted between 2001 and 2012, finds that humanities major graduates are not as pigeonholed as the perception lets out.”

How can YOU determine if an area within humanities is something you want to deepen? Start with a Coursera course and you may develop a scholarly obsession! Here are 2 courses starting soon that students of ALL ages can benefit from:

The French Revolution, a free 8-week online course offered through The University of Melbourne, starts 7-7-14: https://www.coursera.org/course/frenchrev

Revolutionary Ideas: An Introduction to Legal and Political Philosophy, a free 6-week online course offered through UPenn, starts 7-27-14: https://www.coursera.org/course/legalandpolitical

From there, if you’re a current U.S. high school student, consider MIT’s new INSPIRE opportunity:

MITInspireMIT INSPIRE is a new national research competition in the arts, humanities, and social sciences, exclusively for high school students. Their website describes it:, The first of its kind, INSPIRE will enable students to showcase and present original research in one of thirteen fields, ranging from anthropology to music, economics, and philosophy. Expert judges will award prizes for the most outstanding work in each category.We invite your students to participate by submitting entries and competing for awards. The final round of the competition will be held at the Institute’s campus in Cambridge, MA in April 2015.”

Summer is a great time for students to plan and begin their research, and continue in the fall. Consider a Coursera course, a local community college course, or start reading articles in well-known humanities journals! Check out Stanford’s summary of humanities fields and ponder higher learning this summer! You might just find that evolutionary linguistics or Latin American Studies is an area you want to learn more about. Which humanities fields do you feel are most beneficial for college students or grad students? Post a comment on this blog and let us know!

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