Why Study the Humanities?

final exam essay
by Renea Roth

Having learned more about the myths and stories of Western civilization, I am understanding more how study of the humanities (art, history, and literature) can be used to help people better understand and communicate with one another. It is obvious that the study of humanities is not just a college course, but it is an ongoing process and practice in life.

The humanities can first be used to understand the past which has created the present. The culture which we have was shaped by the past. Facts, findings, and literature of even thousands of years ago have influenced our world today. Knowing this past can allow people to understand our present; knowing how we came to this present helps us to communicate about it and the future.

The study of the humanities can also be used to realize differing interpretations of life and history. Studying facts of the past helps to understand literature of the past. Art reflects the cultures of the past, and shows how we achieved what we have today. For example, the Song of Roland was very biased about the Saracens (Muslims). If one only studied literature, they would have a totally skewed interpretation of who the Muslims were. By studying history though, we know that the battle in this literature wasn't even against Muslims. Also by studying history and religion we can see how Islam developed and what it really is. This is just one example of how the comprehensive study of the humanities can be used to understand the world, and to communicate fairly and intelligently with others in the world.

The humanities are not just part of the college's curriculum. The study of the humanities teaches one how to study and look at how the past developed and how it has impacted today's world. The humanities allows people of different cultures to communicate and understand their sometimes common pasts but present differences. The humanities shows how different disciplines affect and complement one another. Finally, the study of the humanities shows that this study is ongoing and continual, constantly evolving and shaping.

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Copyright © Gerald W. Schlabach. Last updated: 13 August 1997