NJIT's Student Newspaper

The Vector

NJIT's Student Newspaper

The Vector

NJIT's Student Newspaper

The Vector

Humanities Classes Aren’t Just Easy As


It is the age-old habit of every STEM major to look down upon humanities classes as if they’re worth nothing more than the easy As and credits that they provide. “After all, when exactly am I going to be using literature in my aerospace engineering degree?” is a form of reasoning I’ve heard all too often for a variety of different majors. To an extent, I can understand this viewpoint.  

After all, if the supposed goal of a degree is to provide you with a specific set of skills for a specific job, then why bother with things seemingly unrelated to that job? This form of thinking hinges upon two ideas. The first is our assumption that the sole purpose of a degree is to increase our value in the job market, and the second is that all other skills and knowledge besides those essential to the job are useless in the modern world. 

Both of these assumptions are flawed at their core. Yet, in order to truly understand why, we must first take a look back at the history of some of the greatest minds who have forged our understanding of the world today.  

Many of us are familiar with the works of Leonardo da Vinci, who is perhaps most famed today for his painting of the Mona Lisa. However, da Vinci was more than just a humble painter; he was passionate about a variety of subjects, including mathematics, geometry, astronomy, botany, and engineering. In fact, da Vinci laid the groundwork for many modern inventions, such as parachutes, helicopters, and even diving suits.  

Most in the modern day would consider da Vinci to be an engineering mastermind due to his significant contributions to the field. Yet his educational background would greatly differ from our own today, as he invested so much time in learning the arts, literature, and philosophy — just as much as he did for mathematics and engineering.  

Many would argue that a great deal of da Vinci’s creative inspiration in his various engineering projects came from his wide variety of interests in arts and humanities, almost as if these subjects went hand in hand. Da Vinci is not the only example of this phenomenon. Pythagoras, the Greek mathematician famous for his strides in mathematics and the Pythagorean theorem, was just as much of a philosopher as he was a mathematician.  

Abbas ibn Firnas, considered to be the very first man to take flight and build a functional flight machine, was not only an aviator, chemist, and engineer, but also a musician and poet. Zang Heng, who invented the world’s first seismoscope, was also a famous painter, sculptor, and historian.  

The common denominator we find amongst all these great minds and many others is that they were well-versed in a wide variety of knowledge stemming from both the arts and the sciences. If one were to put one of these great minds up against someone whose only skill is knowing how to code extremely well, most companies would prefer to hire the former, as their wide range of experiences will give them an edge when dealing with new ideas and different perspectives.  

Our flawed perception is that the sciences and the humanities are two different paths that will lead us down different roads. Yet the reality is that they both complement each other, working hand in hand to influence the other and forge our creativity. 

College educations were not made to simply supply future workers with skills in a specific trade so that they may go on to become cogs in a corporate machine. In fact, if we take a look back at their history, it’s been quite the opposite. Those who simply sought to acquire skills for a trade often became apprentices to those who had already mastered those trades.  

Comparatively, a college education in ancient Greece, for example, highly emphasized expanding its students’ minds to new ideas, whether those be in mathematics, philosophy, or the arts. With that being said, there is a fine line between useful education and meaningless knowledge. Understanding the core concepts at the heart of subjects such as language, philosophy, and the arts is important for forming critical thinking and communication skills.  

However, the importance of these skills often gets muddled when they’re placed in the same vein with classes such as “How to Watch Television.” I’m not joking; this is a real class offered by Montclair State University. This is why it comes as no surprise that students no longer see the value in humanities classes.  

Other classes often heavily bias themselves toward a specific political opinion and seem as though they’re intended to push the beliefs of the university rather than teach students the critical thinking skills necessary to form their own opinions. Humanities classes deserve better and are necessary for a well-rounded education.  

However, it’s hard to make students understand their value when so many have become occupied by meaningless knowledge and political bias. For students to take them seriously again and understand their value, universities must take the initiative to separate that which is vital for students’ development, and that which is not. 

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Ali Jamil, Contributing Writer
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