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Posts tagged ‘liberal arts’

Thursday Throwback: The humanities are “useless.” (Unless you want a job. Or to change the world.)

It’s Thursday. I’m busy with some stuff that needs to get done and you need something to read. So take five minutes to browse through one of my faves from a few years ago. It seems especially important this spring that we continue to state the case for the social studies and humanities.

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As my two kids weaved their way through middle and high school, they experienced the first waves of STEM, Career Pathways, and the focus by school districts on specific technical skills. As students who were also interested in art, music, and journalism, it became difficult for them to find room in their schedules for those “non-essential” courses.

The reasoning? We need to get kids ready for high paying jobs after graduation. Get them ready for engineering majors in college. For careers in computer science or coding cause that’s where the money is.

Not that STEM and tech and career tracks and coding for 8th graders is necessarily a bad thing. I truly believe that we need to provide all types of learning experiences and opportunities for our students. But it seemed at times as if all of those things were added at the expense of things like art, history, and music.

It’s gotten better as STEM morphed into STEAM and personalized learning plans have become the norm here in the Midwest, giving students more latitude in what and how they study. But I still hear – and maybe you do too – that the liberal arts and humanities classes are “extra” kinds of things in grades 6-12 and something to be completely avoided during any sort of post-secondary experience.

To me, it becomes problematic when there’s a singular focus on specific job skills or career tracks. It’s not just that our students can end up missing out on exploring ways to make sense of and improve the world they live in – developing tolerance, understanding others, building empathy, strengthening communication skills, and solving problems.

It’s also pushes an assumption about the perceived monetary value of some disciplines and the “worthlessness” of others. As social studies teachers, we need to continue to champion the value of what we do. The content and skills that kids learn in a history class are important for everybody, whether they’re repairing wind turbines, managing a hedge fund, or setting up a company wide LAN.

Here’s the point. Read more

The humanities are “useless.” (Unless you want a job. Or to change the world.).

As my two kids weaved their way through middle and high school, they experienced the first waves of STEM, Career Pathways, and the focus by school districts on specific technical skills. As students who were also interested in art, music, and journalism, it became difficult for them to find room in their schedules for these “non-essential” courses.

The reasoning? We need to get kids ready for high paying jobs after graduation. Get them ready for engineering majors in college. For careers in computer science or coding cause that’s where the money is.

Not that STEAM and tech and career tracks and coding for 8th graders is necessarily a bad thing. I truly believe that we need to provide all types of learning experiences and opportunities for our students. But it seemed at times as if all of those things were added at the expense of things like art, history, and music.

It’s gotten better as Read more

Why should you hire a history student? (Spoiler alert. Cause they’re awesome)

For a long time, many in education have viewed the K-12 system as the minor leagues for college. We take pride in how many of our HS grads are accepted into colleges, especially the elite ones. We’ve created curriculum and tests and policy and tracks that encourage the jump from high school to university.

Nothing really wrong with that. I’m a big fan of the liberal arts myself. But not everyone is interested in two or four or eight more years of school. Some are ready to jump into other things. And that’s okay too. But the system can sometimes marginalize those sorts of students.

And so, over the last few years, there’s been a shift. A recent push is happening in a lot of places, Kansas included, to find ways for K-12 education to do a better job of prepping kids for careers as well as college. STEM and STEAM and Pathways and Career Clusters now are helping K-12 schools to become little training grounds for businesses.

Nothing really wrong with that. I’m a big fan of creating employable people myself. But not everyone wants to jump right into the job market. But at times, it can seem as if the push to create employable people marginalizes the humanities – history, art, literature.

I think we can and should do both. And I think most schools are doing a pretty good job of finding the balance. But I do hear more questions about the value of a humanities / history degree than I used to.

What can you do with that degree? How can studying history help you get a job?

And a few months ago, I ran across an old post at a site called Shaunanagins. The name alone was enough to suck me in. But the post title and content kept me around. 30 Reasons it’s Smart to Hire a History Student does a great job of addressing the questions of those who are unsure where the humanities fits into a 21st century curriculum

We know, because we see it every day, how important the transferable skills are that we teach in our classrooms. But Shauna Vert clearly articulates the reasons why businesses need to seek out the history majors.

Need a taste? Read more

Is She Ready? How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Liberal Arts

The first thing you need to know is that today is Erin’s last day of high school. Yup.  She graduates on Saturday. Yeah, I know. Where did the time go?

And it’s more than just a little weird.

She’s done pretty well. National Merit Finalist. Valedictorian. Art awards. Plays and musicals. She didn’t hurt herself running cross country, learned how to drive a manual transmission without serious structural damage to the vehicle, and rarely rolls her eyes when her parents ask her to do things. So fairly typical teenager. Read more

It’s not always about job skills

I’m sitting in a Northfield, Minnesota hotel room.

Yes.

That Northfield, Minnesota. You know . . . the Jesse James last bank raid Northfield.

My daughter is on a last minute college visit trip and so besides learning more about Jesse James, we’re spending some time eating college cafeteria food, sitting in very exciting financial aid seminars, and listening to college tour guides share interesting campus anecdotes while watching them walk backwards.

And I’m becoming more and more convinced that a quality liberal arts education continues to be relevant in the 21st century. Post high school should be more than just job skills. And Laura Skandera Trombley, president of Pitzer College, knows it.

During a recent speech, Trombley shares her thoughts on the power of a liberal arts education. As social studies teachers, we are a part of that liberal arts tradition. And, sometimes, I think we need to be reminded of how powerful that tradition can be: Read more