Importance of education in the humanities

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Importance of education in the humanities

Importance of education in the humanities

Importance of education in the humanities…….The domain of the humanities covers courses that have to do with the Culture, History   and Arts of a people. Such courses include but are not limited to Literature, Language, History, Classics, Religion and Philosophy. These courses hardly use the methodology of the natural sciences. They depend mostly on rationalization, evaluation and arguments mostly done from the background of culture and human interest. It is  often ridiculously claimed that  these disciplines  in the humanities do not readily place ‘bread and butter’ on the table. In other words, their utility cannot easily be quantified, unlike what obtains in applied sciences. Thus many African leaders believe that these disciplines are not relevant to the present developmental process. According to Sogolo, Herbert Spencer was one of the early critics of the humanities in his classification of areas of activities as the following statements show:

First, those activities which directly minister to self- preservation; second, those activities which, securing the necessities of life, indirectly minister the self-preservation; third, those activities which have as their end the rearing  and discipline of offspring; fourth, those activities which  are involved in the maintenance of proper social and political relations; and fifth, those miscellaneous activities which make up the leisure part of life, devoted to the gratification of tastes and feelings (Spencer, cited by  Sogolo,).

The fifth of the activities is where Spencer thinks the humanities belong. He could not be totally right for two reasons: First, the preoccupation of the humanities certainly involves more than the satisfying of taste and feelings, as they constitute the pivot on which culture and civilization are based.

Secondly, all disciplines whether in the sciences or humanities try at one point  or the  other to satisfy human feelings and tastes. It therefore means that the humanities themselves are only fulfilling some of the imperative of the product of human  intellectual enterprise, which is  the satisfaction of tastes and feelings. Perhaps, this function falls within the purvey  of  the intrinsic function of education.

A major importance of education in the humanities lies in the fact that it satisfies certain needs of man, which are beyond the physical and material needs which science and technology  are concerned with. According to Sogolo:

The satisfaction of such needs….is beyond the reach of science because these have to do with  phenomena which  are not explicable in terms of some laws of natural processes. The sciences seek, through the formulation  of law and theories, to create order and uniformity out of apparent diversity, to apply such laws in adapting the environment to suit man’s needs. Paradoxically, however,  in doing all this for man, science seems to stand indifferent to the fate of this very object it purports to serve. This aspect, according to the history of education, has long been assigned to the humanities.

The extensive quotation from Sogolo is important because it shows that there are fundamental aspects of man that cannot be grasped by natural science. Such aspects include the human mind, human values, culture, happiness, the goals of scientific innovations and the place  of man in the universe. The most fundamental question about man is man, and therefore a naturalistic methodology cannot fully grasp the dimension of this phenomena. Perhaps, this is  why J.S. Mill suggested that “men are men before they are lawyers, or physicians, or merchants,  or manufacturers” Mill cited by Sogolo. To extend this position further we can ask: Does being an engineer, a biochemist, a medical doctor, an economist solve the problem of happiness, justice, life after life human destiny and the crisis of existence? The answer would definitely be No.


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