Letter: On the Arts and Humanities

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Jobs: a major consideration for many students this time of year. Last week’s [ed: May issue] Imprint cartoon featured a hypothetical job interview where a candidate had to analyse a Shakespearean Sonnet: an easy task for the prospect, who produced a BA in English, was instantly offered a sack of money, and hired “FOREVER!” The cartoon ended with a sarcastic fade to black and the caveat that the applicant “should have taken CS.”
This is not the first time cartoons ribbing the Arts have appeared in Imprint. Indeed, such jabs seem to be part of UW’s wider campus culture. While these jibes are easy enough to make based on job prospects, the Arts are not about memorizing Shakespearean trivia, or memorization at all – to imply this misses the point of entire fields of knowledge. The Arts are about communication, analysis, critical thinking, and questioning norms. Why do authors arrange information in a certain way? How do humans engage with the wider world? What is the bigger picture? Regurgitating trivia will not get you top grades in the Arts.
The Oxford English Dictionary’s word of the year for 2016 was “post-truth” and we have all bemoaned 2017’s current path as a year of “fake news” and “alternative facts.” In a world that doesn’t seem to value critical thinking in the workplace and beyond, perhaps it is time to start taking the Arts seriously.

– Preston Aren, PhD Candidate UW.

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