The field of humanities may not be as desirable as the sciences, nevertheless it has always had a place with the elite. Many respected positions were filled by graduates in the field who had a deep understanding and knowledge of philosophy, literature, history, sociology and economics.
They include world leaders like Former US president the late John F Kennedy who had a degree in Political Philosophy majoring in International Affairs, and president Barack Obama who apart from a law degree has a BA in Political Science majoring in International Relations.
British Prime Minister David Cameron is another leader who has a degree in the same field as was Malaysia’s first Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman. The Tunku went on to study law later. Tun Musa Hitam, a former deputy prime minister is another example. His first degree was in the arts while his master’s degree was in politics.
Humanities graduates shine as journalists, writers, editors and as civil servants. The humanities, unlike the sciences, are defined by breadth rather than depth.
Few would deny that competition for pursuing a degree in Humamities is fierce due to the large number of applicants.
The course itself imposes a rigorous workload. Students typically must endure tutorials or seminars in which they regularly have to present papers and be prepared to be grilled intensively on their contents.
Tutorials and seminars in humanities help to sharpen one’s thinking.
The breadth of the subject matter covered, and the fact that students are constantly ch-allenged to justify themselves prevents them from being parochial.
In philosophy, for the teaching methods to be Socratic, it is a student’s task to ask questions and encourage analytical thinking. Philosophy is designed to be deliberately broad, and because it is inter-disciplinary, students as participants, can and should be able to speak across subject boundaries.
■ The writer lectures at the Faculty of Business Management, Universiti Teknologi MARA, Shah Alam, Selangor. He can be contacted at email@example.com or at firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: The STAR Home Education Sunday August 7, 2011