It’s a common belief among millennials that a successful career requires you to major in the ever-progressing technology industry. I can’t begin to explain the reactions I receive when I get asked my major and I say it’s creative writing; most of them being along the lines of “Oh, that sounds fun!” This sort of skepticism is nothing new to me. It is part of a debate against liberal arts that has been going on long before me, and will most likely continue my entire life the more we progress into the digital age.
Every day, the economy is changing to support a growing field of scientists, technicians, mathematicians and so forth which puts into question the value of a liberal arts education. Both my parents were in IT, so I was going against the grain when I decided I wanted to be a writer. Whenever I come home during holidays, my dad still asks me what I plan to do after I graduate. I am constantly confronted with the reality that the humanities are seen as less important in a world that is more obsessed with playing video games than reading novels.
According to Time magazine, we are living in an age of distraction and we need more people with an ethical grounding to respond to real human needs. There’s always a rush for what we need now, instead of considering its lasting impact, which has tech companies more concerned about their products than the market they are selling them to. This ADHD behavior may be why fidget spinners hit it off so well. It is also why everyone is so absorbed in the latest technology that it’s starting to take away from our human interactions.
There is a reason behind why the humanities are better at grasping human behavior than any other field of study. We have to read. A lot. It’s incredibly important, as a writer, to learn how to empathize with people, and that’s what books help us do. I can’t help but think of all the instances in which robots claim they don’t have feelings. Technology helps us, but it doesn’t replace like us. No one should have to make the choice between them because the two compliment each other.
One of my English professors once asked our class to define liberal arts. The question threw me off guard. I had always imagined the answer to be obvious, stored away somewhere in my brain, for this exact kind of moment. But I didn’t have a response. The latin definition of liberal means “free” or “unrestricted;” therefore, freeing one from menial work to train the mind. And the mind needs more than just one type of training.
A recent piece from the Harvard Business Review titled “Liberal Arts in the Digital Age,” argues that to prepare students to solve large-scale human problems, we must push them to widen, not narrow, their education and interests. I still have friends that are concerned about finding a job in the tech industry because technology keeps advancing to the point where human tasks are being replaced by machines. Their focus is so specialized that it limits their capabilities towards what else they can do.
When I think of a well-rounded education, I think of more than just a handful of skills and majors; how you think also matters. If we all thought analytically, then we’d forget that there is more than one way to solve a problem, or interpret a conversation, or see more than one perspective. Amidst today’s technology, it’s even more critical that we apply ourselves to different and new opportunities. I did not major in technology, but at least I know I can still make a difference.