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Seattle Times letters to the editor

July 14, 2013 at 6:53 AM

The value of the humanities

Need for imagination permeates society

Thanks to Julie Ziegler and Michael Zimmerman for a cogent reflection on the critical need for the humanities in academia and throughout society at large. [“Guest column: How the humanities support economy,” Opinion, July 11.]

Indeed, an overemphasis on scientific and technological know-how neglects vital humanistic ingredients such as art, linguistics and literature that provide existential meaning and spiritual depth to any culture.

Often, it is the creative imagination and not simply technologic proficiency that makes for progress and wonder in myriad fields of science.

Our contemporary world is brimming with astounding technologies and even more technical innovations are expected to permeate society soon. A pervasive presence of the humanities can help ensure that the needs and best yearnings of human beings will be at the center, and not the periphery, of the emerging technosphere.

Joe Martin, Seattle

It’s about more than the money

On a recent visit to Seattle, I read the recent guest column on the humanities, and had to respond as a university professor who is dedicated to educating and training our next generation of scholars.

Reducing the critical necessity of funding humanities education to mere economic reasons fails to acknowledge the fundamental importance of a well-rounded education (which many of our current leaders lack, causing America’s stature to slip, and bringing tremendous instability to global security).

Humanities, along with science and mathematics, are a cornerstone of well-rounded education that help our students learn from generations of scholars, so they don’t have to reinvent the wheel or enable history to repeat itself. Beyond that, the ability to communicate, read and argue coherently are vital skills, sought by employers, that are developed by education in the humanities.

My undergraduate Alma Mater, Caltech, understood this and required all students to take humanities courses every semester that I attended. I am forever grateful that it did.

Michael Pravica, associate professor of physics, Henderson, Nev.

Comments | More in Education | Topics: economy, education, humanities

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