A hot debate on humanities“Why should we hire humanities majors over science and engineering majors who can work in the field right away?” said an HR manager at a major company. When I asked if it would be meaningful to hire liberal arts majors with potential and train them, he said, “The humanities are important, but it is more economical to hire engineering students and give them lectures on the humanities than hiring humanities majors and giving them job training from the beginning.”
Having majored in liberal arts in college, I feel it is not right that applicants with liberal arts degrees are shunned. The company is known for emphasizing that creativity from liberal arts is the future. But I couldn’t argue with him. Just as he said, companies strictly pursue efficiency. No one can prevent companies from hiring science and engineering majors over liberal arts graduates. In fact, 85 percent of the new hires at Samsung Electronics studied science and engineering. Hyundai Motors has only hired science and engineering students in its regular recruitment sessions since last year.
The series “Even Humanities Majors at Top Universities are Sad” on the JoongAng Ilbo started controversy online and offline. Some said the country would fall when the humanities collapse, while others feel that liberal arts are far from important. The areas of study in liberal arts are likely to become even narrower. Deputy Prime Minister for Education Hwang Wu-yeo said in a conference with student representatives on Feb. 4, “Students need to study the humanities for their own development after they get jobs first.” He wants to expand seats for science and engineering majors and reduce humanities departments.
Job seekers said it is already hard enough to get relevant licenses and certificates, and that it dismays them to hear that the future of liberal arts majors is dark. In a JoongAng Ilbo survey, job seekers with liberal arts majors spend an average of 15.5 million won ($14,300) to get four qualifications, such as foreign language test scores or certifications.
So is it really hopeless for humanities major? I disagree. The successes of global IT leaders such as Google, Apple and Intel are supported by the power of liberal arts. Half of Google’s new hires are humanities majors. Liberal arts are not studies of the bygone past but nurture imagination needed for the future.
In order to overcome the humanities’ catastrophic crisis, universities and companies need to work together more. By reinforcing cooperation between academia and industries and allowing opportunities to get on-the-job training, liberal arts majors will graduate with field experience. Also, a program that integrates philosophy and history with software and IT should be created. Let’s hope that society will help liberal arts majors seeking jobs be successful.
*The author is a national news writer of the JoongAng Ilbo. JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 6, Page 29
by SOHN GUK-HEE