August 20, 2012
By Allen Mikaelian
“Are the Humanities Dead in Today’s World?” asked the Post-Journal in Jamestown, New York. Tuning project member David Kinkela, professor of history at SUNY Fredonia, thinks not: “A degree in the humanities offers students the ability to think about their world differently and to grapple with the complexity of the human experiences across time.” And Julie Gibert, professor of history at Canisius College and a member of the Tuning project, explained to the Post-Journal:
There are very significant numbers of administrators, for example, and researchers who put scientific research into broader social and historical contexts, not to mention people whose job is to facilitate communication between scientists and the broader community. Those might be classified as jobs in health-related fields, but they’re perfect for humanities majors whose interests, aptitudes, and training concentrate on interpreting and communicating information and ideas.
Gibert went on to talk about several history majors in her department who are preparing for medical school, and Kinkela closes the piece by commenting on how the humanities and STEM disciplines are not so far apart: “Not only can we learn much from each other, but we can also dispel the notion that the sciences and humanities are completely different.”
Just a week earlier, the Herald Tribune in Sarasota, Florida, featured the work of Tuning project member Carrie Beneš, associate professor of history at the New College. The newspaper presented Tuning in the context of Florida Governor Rick Scott’s comments that liberal arts programs do not prepare students for employment. Beneš took issue with this notion: “We’re trying to reinforce the argument that what students need are skills that are broadly applicable in a large array of careers, rather than just a specialized degree that will only let them do one type of work.”
The Tuning project involves teachers like these in a national-local effort to define the broad benefits of a history major and to disseminate the findings internally, within their own history departments, and externally, to the communities and businesses where history majors seek employment.
Read more about the Tuning project here, here, and here. Some critiques of the Tuning Project can be found here and here. The September issue of Perspectives on History will continue the conversation about Tuning in the News and Letters to the Editor sections.