Oh, the humanities!

editorial-Keith McLean

Leslie Armstrong
Arts Editor

editorial-Keith McLean


Some people go to university to get a good job. Some people go because their parents don’t want them playing World of Warcraft all day. Some people go to learn.

It’s easy to forget that universities are places for learning for one’s own personal benefit. In high school, a guidance counsellor sits you down at 14 years old, and asks you what you want to be. If the counsellors do anything right, they teach us that we need to get a university degree, and figure out how to make money.

By recently investing $50 million into building a new engineering building at York, the Ontario government made a statement: programs that lead to jobs are worth investing in. The provincial government’s intentions for investing in engineering are clear when considering the remark made by John Milloy, Ontario’s minister for training, colleges, and universities. He says that investing in the department is “vital to Ontario’s future economic growth.”

Why doesn’t “$50-million grant to humanities department” ever make the headlines?

Investing in it is a waste of money,because the department of humanities doesn’t lead to direct jobs. But students enrolled in humanities and other creative studies, like fine arts and LAPS, are tired of hearing this argument.

While it’s true that there aren’t a flotilla of jobs lined up for prospective professional writing graduates like myself, the purpose of studying at a university is not to graduate into a job, but to immerse oneself into learning. The irony lives on that college—which lands jobs—is a dirty word, while university—which imparts knowledge—is more prestigious and credible. In this mindset, a college arts degree means nothing.
If a university arts degree means nothing, then it doesn’t belong anywhere.

Similarly, favouring practical, job-landing programs shows how little creativity is valued, which is especially insulting when York’s distinction is a top-drawer film program and a flourishing fine arts community. The focus is moving away from the benefits that the individual reaps, like knowledge, reasoning, and self-worth, and moving toward societal benefits, like capital, capital, and more capital.

But we can’t measure self-worth the way we measure capital.

Funny enough, creativity and imagination are crucial in any field, so long as said field is bound to develop and thrive. Failing to support the other “non-practical” faculties at York lessens its value. A program that has no support also discourages people from enrolling into it, where they could have taken the time in university to explore and discover their interests.

The reality is that university is not a “point A to point B” situation. The most interesting people I’ve met haven’t declared their majors yet.

Don’t go to university to get a job. Don’t go for the sake of making your parents happy. Go for your own selfish thirst for knowledge.

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By Excalibur Publications



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