Commonplace Book #20

The humanities are all well and good, goes another argument, for the children of the privileged, who don’t need to worry about earning a living.  But other students, even at selective schools, should stick to the practical disciplines: engineering, computer science, economics–quantitative fields, not verbal ones.  The notion echoes something Woodrow Wilson said a century ago: “We want one class of persons to have a liberal education, and we want another class…very much larger…to forego the privileges of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks.”  Substitute “technical” for “manual” and the argument is the same.  It is not the proponents of a liberal arts education who are the elitists; it is those who reserve it for a lucky few.  If you think the humanities have any value, whether as a doorway to enlightenment or just as cultural capital, then they are valuable for everyone and should belong to everyone.

–William Deresiewicz, Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite & the way to a Meaningful Life, 166-167,