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Why Is Studying The Humanities Important For My Child?

Why Is Studying The Humanities Important For My Child?

why studying the humanities is important

There are people out there who will tell you to actively dissuade your kid from studying the humanities. They’ll tell you that the future is all about studying the sciences and (perhaps more significantly) … that that’s where the money will be.

Of course, the sciences are an important part of any child’s education but … and this is crucial … they are only a part.

If you want to raise well-rounded kids prepared to face the ever-changing world around them as adults, they need more than just the sciences.


Let me give you a few reasons to think over.

1. Our World Is Changing Quickly And The Job Market With It

Largely because of technology, we can only guess what kind of a world our children will be inheriting from us when the time comes. One of the most significant topics that you’ll notice coming up, when the discussion starts turning to what the future will be like is, of course, artificial intelligence.

Many predict that huge numbers of jobs will be taken over by bots because of the enormous progress in this area. Jobs that once seemed like a safe bet (being an accountant for example) are now on shaky ground. This inevitably leads to concerns over how we should be educating our children.

So, how can we make sure that our children develop skills that will be in demand in a world transformed by artificial intelligence?

Artificial Intelligence Cannot Learn Empathy

Experts are telling us that the answer lies in developing the skills that artificial intelligence cannot. Artificial intelligence doesn’t know, and is unlikely ever to know, how to develop high levels of emotional intelligence. Artificial intelligence cannot learn empathy. This means that jobs which require high levels of empathy or the ability to navigate or manage complex human dynamics, will not be replaced by AI. This means that teachers, therapists and many healthcare jobs should be safe.

How can studying the humanities help with that?

Research has shown that reading fiction is a great way for your child to learn empathy. Seeing the world through the eyes of different characters is a fun and effective way for them to start understanding what others feel. This being so, a good grasp of literature is a must when equipping your child with the skills they need to face the future.

Artificial Intelligence Cannot Totally Replace Humans in Creative Jobs

While Artificial Intelligence can already write poems and stories, it’s humans that decide if they’re any good or not. Ultimately, the success of any creative work rises or falls based on whether people connect with it, enjoy it and assign value to it.

This means we will always need people to be editors (of human or artificial intelligence-made art) as well as critics and reviewers of all forms of art.

Encouraging the study of any or all humanities subjects is therefore an obvious choice for anybody wanting to direct a child into such career in the arts.

2. Studying The humanities Helps Us To Think Through The Ethical Repercussions Of How Our World Is Changing

Taking Artificial Intelligence as an example again, Oxford University recently started an institute for the study of the ethical implications of the development of Artificial Intelligence (Institute for Ethics in AI).

On the institute’s website they state:

Philosophers made a major contribution to the development of medical ethics forty years ago, and we are now at a tipping point where a similar ethical intervention is needed to cope with the questions raised by the rise of AI.

As science advances, we will always need people to think through the ethical implications of these advancements. How should people be using new technologies? Where are the potential ethical problems that could arise as science progresses? How can we make sure science is being used for the good of humanity?

As anybody who has ever read Frankenstein knows, advancements in science have the potential to do great good and great harm.

This being so, a strong understanding of philosophy, religion, literature and history can equip your child to think through the ethical problems of their day.

3. Studying The Humanities Is Inspiring

Who doesn’t love a good story?

Who hasn’t been inspired by the life story of a historical figure?

Or been fired up to learn more about a new topic when they read about it or watched it play out in a film or TV show?

As the University of Pennsylvania puts it:

Learning has a lot to do with storytelling: instructors tell students stories to pique their interest, to ground theory in specifics, and to create a reference point for new ideas; students tell stories to integrate new ideas and to make sense of their experiences.

Educator Charlotte Mason was saying much the same thing over 100 years ago. She believed that narrative-driven, human-interest-centred books were much more likely to inspire a child with new ideas than dry facts in a textbook.

Aside from the value of studying the humanities in and of themselves, studying literature or history can be a wonderful complement to other areas of study (such as the sciences). They can provide your child with valuable ‘reference points’ for the new ideas they absorb in other subject.

4. Because It’s Not Just Technology Which Has Shaped Our World … But Ideas Too

There are many ideas that nowadays we just take as a given, which not that long ago were strange and new.

Take our modern ideas of ‘childhood’ as an example. It wasn’t that long ago that it was considered totally normal for kids to work full-time hours from a young age. Now, most people would regard this as a tragedy – a lost childhood – likely to form an adult with deep resentments and regrets.

So, when did we start to think in this new way? When did we start to make the connection between unhappy kids and the unhappy adults they became?

This story is, in large part, the story of the great children’s classic Anne of Green Gables.

Would you like your child to understand the power of ideas in shaping the world around them?

Do you want your kid to understand how their childhood was shaped by what were, at that time, strange, new-fangled ideas over 100 years ago?

Then look no further than the Anne of Green Gables Living Book History Course – where they will discover how Anne’s story (from neglected to nurtured) is representative of what campaigners and reformers were fighting for at that time.

Prompts For Thought

Do you think studying the humanities is valuable? Why?

What did you find inspiring about history, literature or other humanities classes that you have attended?

What valuable skills can children learn from studying the humanities?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

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