There are benefits of taking humanities courses for students in any program
C/O Madeline Neumann
By: Ardena Bašić, Contributor
McMaster University’s integrated business and humanities program is a complete game-changer for commerce education in Canada. Combining practical business elements with ethics and other humanity-based courses teaches students to learn the value of making a sustainable and effective difference as opposed to focusing on the bottom line.
However, it is not just business programs that could benefit from integration with the humanities. While the argument has been made for mandatory ethics courses, I believe that every program should contain at least a few humanities courses for a variety of purposes.
For one, the humanities help us think and reflect, as opposed to simply memorizing. In most science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects, answers, concepts and theories can be memorized. Most are logical, require technical skills and have definite “yes” or “no” answers.
The humanities, on the other hand, are at the other end of that continuum. When we consider major topics like philosophy, linguistics and ethics, there often is no “correct” answer for significant research questions.
We must think about our positionality in society, our previous biases and our own opinions to formulate our answers. This is invaluable in fostering the next generation of critical thinkers.
The IBH program specifically mixes core business courses like leadership, accounting and marketing, with humanities courses like ethics, linguistics and community outreach. Through this, we know that we have to consider and be tolerant of all perspectives on business-resulted issues.
We also have more awareness about what problems affecting our society may look like and how they are affected by language, ethics and the world as a whole. When we lack this mindset, we are limited to our own personal perspective and that of the traditional business focus: profit.
Rather, the IBH program is creating a future where business leaders consider the people and planet of the business world first and then the profit.
Sciences and technology programs could also benefit from the abstract nature of the humanities. Besides being able to think more critically considering the logical nature of most scientific concepts, the humanities can foster curiosity, creativity and empathy. We can then discover new or covert problems that need to be solved through new engineering methods or pharmaceutical research.
The creativity that comes from looking beyond the answer, questioning why and how it has come to be, alongside the understanding and tolerance for everyone else’s opinions and how they can congregate can construct a more enriching STEM community.
Moreover, enrollment in liberal arts programs is steadily dropping, suggesting that many people are not considering the humanities as much when choosing their educational programs. If students are to experience these different subjects, they could find that they truly enjoy them and want to pursue something different than traditional science and medical-related degrees.
Even if they do choose to stay in their current program, any participation in any humanities courses has been proven to foster critical, clear and creative thinking: an asset for a workforce in any industry or sector.
Overall, we need to move away from the narrative that arts and humanities-related degrees are just not as profitable or worthy as STEM-related degrees. Our brain is one of our most powerful and complex assets; the humanities stretch and challenge it in a way that is incomparable to other programs.
When considering the next steps in your educational journey, consider expanding your course or program selection to include the extensive humanities offerings. A linguistics, ethics or gender studies course might just completely change the way you think and how you live your life for the better.