What many undergraduates do not know — and what so many of their professors have been unable to tell them — is how valuable the most fundamental gift of the humanities will turn out to be. That gift is clear thinking, clear writing and a lifelong engagement with literature.
Maybe it takes some living to find out this truth. Whenever I teach older students, whether they’re undergraduates, graduate students or junior faculty, I find a vivid, pressing sense of how much they need the skill they didn’t acquire earlier in life. They don’t call that skill the humanities. They don’t call it literature. They call it writing — the ability to distribute their thinking in the kinds of sentences that have a merit, even a literary merit, of their own.
I tend to find that good writers are good thinkers. You pretty much have to be.
Without the 1) content of a thought, and 2) the organization of a thought, you can’t create quality writing. This is why teaching people to write is critical to society: without it there is little push to become thinkers.
I look forward to a time where we’ve evolved enough to see that STEM should be the enabler of the liberal arts–not the other way around.