Disposing the misinformation that the arts subjects limit career choices, humanities offer the opportunity to learn how to think creatively and critically, to reason, weigh up, and present coherent arguments.
A recent report suggests 50 percent of today’s jobs will have disappeared in eleven years. An economy needs inventive minds to create exports, to build, to make discoveries. Yet it also needs inquisitive minds who will market these inventions, communicate their benefits fluidly and lucidly, interrogate and question before anyone else does. This is what the humanities can teach.
In 2011, a research conducted by New College of the Humanities in Britain showed around 60 percent of people at the top of their professions studied arts, ‘broad humanities’ and social science degrees; they learned and applied the skills of adaptability and flexibility in an ever-changing job market. Interestingly, the sector with the most even distribution of graduates was found among the CEOs of FTSE 100 companies, with around 34 percent having studied arts, humanities and social science subjects, and 31 percent from STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) backgrounds.
While professional progression is key in an increasingly competitive market, education itself is not just about getting a wage; insights into everything – other peoples' cultures, beliefs, politics – are essential for a global society and understanding the world we live in. Surveys also consistently show that employers care less about which subjects people study, but want graduates who can work in teams, can problem solve, communicate effectively and have the confidence and ambition to get things done.
School pupils and university students must be encouraged to follow their hearts and to study what they are passionate about. Happiness tends to breed success and while this generation will be working until they are at least 70, they will be undertaking occupations and roles not even thought of yet; the best training they can take with them into the future is a sharp mind, honed by debate and discussion.
The benefits of analysing history, reading literature, engaging in debate cannot always be measured in terms of salary. Understanding the great achievements of the past helps us to understand the world we live in and influence future decisions. Looking at ethical issues encourages meaningful debate on ethics and morality. An education in the humanities focuses on inquiry and shared exploration of ideas and theories, the past, creative works and the texts that embody them, which together constitute the great conversation of mankind.
Finally – again in favor of balance – rather than offering up a rather limiting ‘this or that’ approach to inquisitive young minds, universities should try to ensure literacy in all disciplines by offering more breadth in the education.