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Education Science

An MIT Dean's Defense of the Humanities 264

Posted by timothy
from the she-oughtta-know dept.
AthanasiusKircher (1333179) writes "Deborah Fitzgerald, a historian of science and dean of MIT's School of the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, speaks out in a Boston Globe column about the importance of the humanities, even as STEM fields increasingly dominate public discussion surrounding higher education. '[T]he world's problems are never tidily confined to the laboratory or spreadsheet. From climate change to poverty to disease, the challenges of our age are unwaveringly human in nature and scale, and engineering and science issues are always embedded in broader human realities, from deeply felt cultural traditions to building codes to political tensions. So our students also need an in-depth understanding of human complexities — the political, cultural, and economic realities that shape our existence — as well as fluency in the powerful forms of thinking and creativity cultivated by the humanities, arts, and social sciences.' Fitzgerald goes on to quote a variety of STEM MIT graduates who have described the essential role the humanities played in their education, and she concludes with a striking juxtaposition of important skills perhaps reminscent of Robert Heinlein's famous description of an ideal human being: 'Whatever our calling, whether we are scientists, engineers, poets, public servants, or parents, we all live in a complex, and ever-changing world, and all of us deserve what's in this toolbox: critical thinking skills; knowledge of the past and other cultures; an ability to work with and interpret numbers and statistics; access to the insights of great writers and artists; a willingness to experiment, to open up to change; and the ability to navigate ambiguity.' What other essential knowledge or skills should we add to this imaginary 'toolbox'?"
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An MIT Dean's Defense of the Humanities

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  • Re:Nice Defense. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 01, 2014 @04:05PM (#46893767)

    An MIT?

    See here [apastyle.org].

  • Re:critical thinking (Score:5, Informative)

    by Hognoxious (631665) on Thursday May 01, 2014 @04:33PM (#46894049) Homepage Journal

    The fact that certain cultures have deeply felt traditions about the value of pi does not mean that a mathematician should be aware of them to be a competent mathematician, or even a competent human being.

    It does if he's trying to explain why a speedometer is reading wrong.

    The fact that other cultures have deeply felt traditions concerning the transfer of blood does not mean that a biochemist needs to know about Jehovah's witnesses.

    It might to a doctor trying to convince parents to not let a child die.

    I know the twitter generation have short attention spans so here's the tl;dr version: sometimes being right isn't enough, and how you say it matters as much as what you say.

  • by jafac (1449) on Thursday May 01, 2014 @04:35PM (#46894073) Homepage

    MIT doesn't need to justify Humanities degrees.

    The business world must. Maybe such degrees are okay for people who are already independently wealthy? But right now, our broken job market doesn't think they're worth much.

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