In the wake of the tragic blows Stony Brook University has made against the Humanities departments, the overall sense of self and self-preservation within has been oceanic and more Byronic than ever. At moments it can feel like an opportunity for protest and community bonding, in others its reminiscent of being on a sinking ship.
We as Humanities majors can recognize our utility to society, that we are not all aspiring solely to be poets or artists, that there are myriad other career paths for us to follow and be just as successful as the deified STEMs, but with the stigma surrounding liberal arts, there is becoming less room for us in academia. The Modern Language Association (MLA) has reported that the full-time jobs in teaching English and foreign language has been steadily withering for the past five years with the number of job ads for tenure-track assistant professor of English positions declining from 879 in the 2007-08 year to 320 in 2016-17.
The knee-jerk reaction to these numbers is the claim that society just isn’t valuing the critical thinking skills that the Humanities teach as much as they once did. It’s no question that it certainly feels this way. Most college-related websites are guilty of focusing their sights on increasing the volume of STEM majors. High school students bombard themselves with articles and lists stating the "The 10 Best College Majors For The Future" (which to no surprise at all does not list any Humanities field) to facilitate the responsibility of choosing a major that will supposedly "guarantee" a job or a high salary.
Sure, in modern society the amount of money needed for a comfortable lifestyle is increasing, and median salary numbers can be informative, but the more important variable for an individual’s future is the individual: their interest in the field, their success in it, their hard work, and their drive to reach the top and earn the salary they deserve.
In fear of becoming preachy, I’ll leave you with this. For all of my peers, predecessors, colleagues, and prospectives, we must hold down the fort. We are important for more than just learning how to write and communicate clearly.
Almost every question we ask ourselves is a question for the Humanities. When you want to know something more deeply, past empirical reasoning, that is a question for the Humanities. Politics, ethics, sociology, history, art, literature—these are the questions of the Humanities and they are all inherently valuable.