Wednesday August 20 2014

Don’t bash humanities;just think about it

By Editorial

In criticising education in the humanities as useless, President Museveni was quoted as saying:
“You ask these arts students what they can solve, and they tell you, ‘For us, we only think’. Think about what?,” he asked. He then emphasised the need for more important, more tangible skills, particularly the sciences.
There’s no argument against emphasis on the sciences and the tangible. But not at the expense of the humanities and the arts. And, especially, thinking.

Because without thinking, we would not have the wheel, we would not have ethics, we would not have great literature, we would not have government, we wouldn’t have much of anything.

Besides, research shows that arts education – teaching people to think – has great benefits to us all, particularly students and their ability to excel. For example, according to a Harris Poll conducted in the United States not too long ago, here’s what most people think about arts education:
• 96 per cent think arts education is important to making a well-rounded person.
• 86 per cent think it improves student attitudes about education.
• 83 per cent think it improves communications skills.
And, here’s the clincher:

Test scores of school children who participate in arts education increase across the board. That means they improve with all the other topics they study, including math and science and other tangible skills cited by you, Mr President.

“The more arts classes, the higher the scores,” the Harris Poll concluded. So, teaching people to think, Mr President, has great benefits well beyond what might be obvious.
To reiterate, without thinking, no wheel, no ethics, no Shakespeare, no government. All great notions, all that is great, comes from one human trait: the ability to think beyond what simply is. And that benefits us all.
Albert Einstein provides some great advice to you, Mr President, and everyone else who questions or challenges that notion:

“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”

Take note, Mr President, about the need to change our (your) thinking because the study and pursuit of the humanities is important for the simple reason you so easily disparage: thinking. It provides benefits that may be difficult to gauge, assess or measure, but it doesn’t lessen its importance.
The evidence is there, Mr President. You need to look for it. Think about it.