In the time of ancient Greece and Rome, the arts and humanities were held in the highest regard. A great education was founded on literature and philosophy. However, the contempt held against these same subjects has become universal over the last century. Top universities have debated cutting their arts programs altogether. Every day, I feel the need to justify my education choices to myself. I need to explain that every two weeks, I cover over 1000 pages of reading and hand in an essay, to the people who give their condolences and say “what a waste of intelligence.” I need to keep my head up against the plethora of newspaper headlines declaring that there is no better way to waste money than to pursue an arts major.
The premise of these articles is this:
UNIVERSITY -> DEGREE -> JOB/CAREER -> MONEY -> STABILITY.
That is not the reason I’m paying for a higher education right now. I am an undergraduate student, and 18 years old. I am paying and working for this:
UNIVERSITY -> EDUCATION -> EXPERIENCE & GROWTH
I’ll admit that may change in graduate school, but I think it’s unfair to ascribe a net worth to education so young in life. I love learning and that’s what I’m here for. Do I really think I’ll be writing essays on 20th century novels every day as a career? No, I do not; I’m not delusional. But the value of an arts education is not in the formulas, repetition, or practice. It’s in learning how to think, how to analyze, how to write, and how to enrich our entire living experience as a whole. I love how much more I know about the world now than I did six months ago. That’s what matters to me as a young student and I don’t see how my education pales in comparison to learning about the world through math and science.
Education in the times of ancient Greece and Rome was about self-enrichment, not money; that was why the humanities were so valued. Those are the subjects that make us human. Those are the histories and cultures of real peoples, the stories that make us feel, cry, laugh, fall in love. I fear that in the 21st century, everything has become monetized. Money makes the world go round. How much are we sacrificing in the name of efficiency? At 18 years old, I don’t want to plunge into that cycle of bills and taxes. I want to live and feel alive with the energy of emotions, beauty, controversy, and language.
“Medicine, law, business, engineering… these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love… these are what we stay alive for.” – N.H. Kleinbaum, Dead Poets Society