Don’t ignore the importance of the humanitiesThe emphasis on degrees that lead to specific jobs has slowly killed the humanities in Korea. The government’s policy on higher education restructuring has led universities to close majors with low employment rates, and the humanities departments have become the main target.
Studies show that the liberal arts majors face many barriers in their job search. This inevitably leaves Korean students to choose STEM majors (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), which focuses on training of practical skills for specific jobs and industries. Business administration majors are at the top. They study in order to adapt to the work force more readily.
For an individual, the study of humanities will help develop critical thinking skills and build a sense of ethical values according to Laurie Zierer, an executive director the Pennsylvania Humanities Council. A civil society is created when individuals with established values are gathered. These people guide society into a collective community that benefits all the individuals within the society.
In a world that is becoming increasingly interconnected, societies with citizens that pursue ethical standards along with critical thinking skills will stand strong with its own firmly established values. Its people will have a broader mental scope to better understand the world.
Also, the learning of humanities will help society defend their own values and cultures in a world that is ever so changing. “Doing philosophy develops our critical reasoning abilities and so equips us for many of the challenges of a rapidly changing society”, says Peter Singer, a professor at Princeton University.
Koreans are having a tough time establishing their own values needed to overcome the challenges of today’s society. This may be why Korean society has the highest suicide rate among the OECD members. It is paradoxical in that as an OECD member, with its high economical status, its people are suffering from lack of identity, purpose, and values.
This needs to change. Korea went through the fastest economic development in the world and this was possible due to a well-organized and hierarchical society. In the past, society focused on developing specific industrial sectors. However, this no longer applies to current Korean society.
Humanities can help us to integrate various and complex theories because of the broad knowledge base it provides. Also, a civil society where institutions and individuals have a network with core values and ethical standards resulted from the learning of humanities may lead to an expansion of social capital, which stems from cooperation and trust between individuals within a society.
People believe it is difficult for a society to prosper both economically and ethically. But humanities ensure a society to make this possible.
BY Kim Do-hee, Student at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies