It’s easy to criticise the arts student. They never seem to be actually at University and if they are it never seems to be for that long. Nevertheless, the mammoth reading lists, the independent style of learning and trying to translate old medieval sources is a whole different ballgame to solving equations.
Arguably, not having as many contact hours puts the pressure on humanities students to be far more independent. A less timetabled schedule means Arts students have to make that decision to work. Often the criticism aimed at arts degrees is how answers are not exact. Essays don’t have a structured code and questions are directed at students with the intention to probe but not necessarily prove. However, in many ways, not being able to double check on a calculator can be just as frustrating and challenging as any Physics or maths problem sheet.
Humanities offer the opportunity to learn how to think creatively and critically, to reason, weigh up, and present coherent arguments. Society needs people who can invent and build but also people with creative and inquisitive minds that can market, sell and communicate these products. It’s easy to pinpoint the uses of science-based degrees but whether studying English literature, history or archaeology, the skills gained are just as valuable and pertinent to society.
Communication above all demonstrates that an arts or humanities student is well versed in speaking confidently and sharing their ideas in an articulate and interesting way. Crucially, if Arts subjects ceased to exist, learning would become far more empirical and geared towards an outcome as opposed to an appreciation of the world around us. It should not matter whether studying the medieval economy of Florence is valid or not but instead, whether studying that can gain a student skills for a future job.
For many, students who chose an Arts subject at degree level have a real passion and interest which can be of great benefit to future employers. It is this passion which inspires and creates those who can inspire. The frequent threat of unemployability lurks on every arts student shoulder. But should that stop a student passionate about literature, art or history stop them from studying what they love?
Moreover, Arts degrees have created politicians, CEO’s and entrepreneurs. Studying humanities is therefore in no way more limited and it far more about the individual than the degree which inhibits or enhances future prospects. Fundamentally, why should it matter to others what people decide to study? Inevitably, in all aspects of society people are looked down on by others. People judge you for what car you drive, what TV programmes you watch or what shops you buy your clothes from.
But it is a great shame that those within the academic field who demonstrate a passion for learning sometimes have ill-informed opinions regarding their fellow academic’s choice of degree.