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“Even though the skills offered by the humanities initially seem to have a “veneer of non-utility,” Freudenburg said, they actually make for highly desirable job qualities because the current state of writing and critical thinking is in “pretty bad shape.”

In fact, Freudenburg said, many of his students in classics went on to “get picked up” by hedge funds after graduation. “They can study a complex issue, think it through, organize their throughts about it and present it as a two page report and not a 10 page rambling thing.”

….Bildner admitted he is not sure if the history major has adequately prepared him to enter the job market as a competitive candidate. Despite the analytical skills and critical reading, writing and research abilities he has gained, Bildner said he is skeptical about the extent to which these skills will help him in his job search.

Other seniors have kept up a more positive outlook. Christina Person ’09 was a Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations major before she switched to Modern Middle East Studies. She said she is familiar with students majoring in fields like history or philosophy at Yale who are just as prepared to go into the finance sector as non-humanities majors.

In Today’s World, Do Liberal Arts Matter? , yale daily news

I love the humanities (and have more-than-casually flirted with the idea of getting a masters in english lit), and I’m all for encouraging more people to study them.

However, the argument that people should study humanities because it makes them equally qualified for eventual wall street jobs and hedge funds completely misses the core of why studying liberal arts is a value for students in the first place. It’s like telling kids they need to learn cursive in first grade because it will help them pass notes and send IMs better down the line in middle school. It may be true, but is that the motivation you want these kids to have when they learn handwriting?

Granted, the article quotes others at Yale who do brush on some of the more legitimate reasons why studying liberal arts is more important than ever–it provides the opportunity to engage in a questioning view of humanity, understand the world through  “historical, interpretive, linguistic and symbolic perspectives”, and immerse in a general sense of appreciation and knowledge about human culture. And I understand that a key concern for today’s students (myself included) is whether or not the skills that they are paying universities $50,000 a year for are marketable in an increasingly frightening job market.

But choosing to tout the history major as a successful Wall Street training ground inspires misguided motivation at best, and does so at the risk of overlooking the true merits of such education.

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