The unseen importance of the liberal arts
By Jason GokHo Ing, Contributor
“The calling of the humanities is to make us truly human in the best sense of the word.” – J. Irwin Miller
We have all heard the social stigmas surrounding majoring in the humanities. The field is synonymous with low starting salaries and a high unemployment rate post-graduation.
With university fees increasing over 40 per cent in the past decade, the thought of pursuing a costly degree that provides minimal financial security seems foolish to many.
As a result, colleges across the country are now seeing significant drops in the number of humanities majors. After all, why would someone pay an arm and a leg for a degree that won’t get them a job?
Although the job market may appear hopeless for art majors, recent developments within technology and business have proven that a humanities major may be worth its price after all.
Stewart Butterfield, the CEO of Slack Technologies obtained his bachelor’s degree in philosophy from the University of Victoria and a master’s degree from Cambridge in philosophy. This multi-millionaire believes that majoring in philosophy was beneficial because it helped him to write clearly and follow through with an argument. These skills were necessary to sort through software engineering principles and simplify these concepts for the public.
Butterfield believes that while learning to program is important, the backbone of a successful tech company relies on an individual’s ability to think critically and understand human nature. These skills cannot be automated and are the focus of many humanities majors, such as English and History.
Butterfield’s way of thinking is far from unusual. In fact, jobs that highlight the ability to relate to consumer within the tech industry are in much higher demand than occupations that focus solely on technical knowledge.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics supports this claim, as it predicts 1.1 million employees will earn a living in sales by 2022, compared to software engineers who will experience only three per cent overall job growth. Although technical degrees such as computer sciences are often seen as superior compared to more artistic majors, the importance of a humanistic approach cannot be understated.
While it is important for individuals to understand the specifics of software development, understanding how humans think and operate is an invaluable skill to possess. After all, any product within any industry was designed for humans by humans.