By LYNNE H. ROFF, student in the Transformative Studies program, which is an online doctoral program. Lynn lives in Homer, Alaska.
Five days a week I read articles online in academic publications such as the Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed. At least once a week there is an article proclaiming the futility of a doctoral degree in the humanities. These invariably cite the weak job market in higher education, the dwindling likelihood of any financial recompense for the expense of graduate study in the form of a meaningful career, and the questionable psychological stability of anyone undertaking such a course in today’s academic and economic climate. I have only to pick up a newspaper to observe the dearth of employment opportunities for many if not most individuals in our country today.
Everywhere it seems people are wondering what to do to improve their living conditions and the well-being of their families. Increasingly, higher education is pressed to justify programs that cannot be immediately associated with gainful employment and to quantify educational content in the anticipation of financial outcomes in an era in which the avenues for creative social expression and individual employment are changing with dizzying rapidity. What are we to do?
The earth is in need of people who have an understanding of their respective cultures, who have a sensitivity to the cultural heritage of others, and an appreciation for the complexity and interconnection of human society and the environmental concerns of our world. Societies are in need of people who can invent, motivate, and organize sustainable systems of agriculture, economy, and development. Organizations are in need of creative and visionary people who can invent solutions to ongoing problems because they perceive human interactions in new and productive ways.
Today’s problems will not yield to yesterday’s methods. These needs can only be satisfied by individuals whose educational preparation equips them for creative and transdisciplinary perspectives situated within a complex humanitarian context. I am proud to be a student in an organization that is on the leading edge of these educational endeavors. I am grateful to be afforded the opportunity to study in an environment that encourages interactive learning and innovative research, and to be aided in that pursuit by the assistance of an organization whose interests so complement my own.
Education is not about earning a living so much as it is about creating a life. Though there is a place for quantitative outcomes, these measurements cannot hope to capture the essence and depth of individual experience. Individuals who are educated in the humanities create opportunities for themselves and others that are innovative, advantageous, and rewarding within social, spiritual, and financial contexts. These attributes are not luxuries in today’s social climate. They are necessities for the development of human civilization.
When critics decry the humanities for placing awareness of those who have come before us and those who are inhabiting this planet with us ahead of job training, we must hold to these understandings in the knowledge that education in the humanities is the study of human beings, and there is no better preparation for the needs of today’s society and the future of our world.