[FOUNTAIN]Wanted: More Humanities Majors

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[FOUNTAIN]Wanted: More Humanities Majors

Senior executives who majored in humanities when they were in college are in the spotlight in the United States. According to a recent report in USA Today, a daily newspaper, only one-third of 1,000 leaders of U.S. companies received bachelor degrees in business administration or a master's of business administration degree. Executives who majored in humanities when they were in college, rather than majoring in business, stand out in the crowd.

Carly Fiorina, chairman and CEO of Hewlett Packard, studied medieval history and philosophy. John Loose, CEO of Corning Inc., majored in history at Earlham College. His concentration was East Asian history, particularly the history of Korea, Japan and China. Michael Eisner, chairman of Walt Disney, studied literature and theater at Denison University in Ohio. Michael Dell, chairman of Dell Computer, majored in biology at the University of Texas and took only one business course. "What's important is creative thinking, and what you major in has nothing to do with whether or not you'll be a good manager," said Mr. Dell.

The English word "humanities" originated from Latin, "humanitas." The word literally means "humane." Marcus Tullius Cicero, a Roman politician and philosopher in 55 B.C., organized a course to teach eloquent oratory skills and named the course "Humanitas." Cicero believed that one has to see through people and people's minds to make speeches that would impress people, and to learn rhetoric, literature, philosophy and history for the same reason. Humanities is, in narrow sense, a concept of literature, history and philosophy, plus religion and general arts. The combination of humanities, social sciences and natural sciences is called fundamental knowledge and is now classified as liberal arts in most universities.

Humanities are in danger of extinction. Students are flocking to practical or financially lucrative majors. The government's "Brain Korea 21" program, its plans to support a few leading universities and what it calls the "new intellectualism" all have led to a neglect of fundamental knowledge of liberal arts and sciences.

In this age of overflowing knowledge and information, it is necessary for a chief executive to have creative ideas and insight. Rather than fragmented pieces of professional knowledge, a CEO needs imagination, inspiration and sensitivity that can cross over boundaries and yield greater value in the end. A sense of balance, without being biased, and a free imagination are most important virtues for cultured people. Refinement, rather than education on how to be a business boss, is required for a CEO.

The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Bae Myung-bok

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