When reading an introduction to humanism, as an assignment for class, I was somewhat surprised by how much I could relate to the renaissance values that were described. The reading was from A History of Western Society, and it argued that, “One of the central preoccupations of renaissance humanists was education and moral behavior… They taught that a life active in the world should be the aim of all educated individuals and that education was not simply for private or religious purposes, but benefited the public good” (McKay 414). I believe that these values are as much alive today, at Oregon Episcopal School, as they were in the renaissance. Humanists believed that a well-rounded, educated person benefited the community and that it was important to have education for everyone. Today you can see this type of education, still alive, in colleges and high schools, known as the liberal arts education.
If you are anything like me, growing up in a family of technology, then you have heard people debating the importance of the liberal arts; maybe you have even wondered about it yourself. While many people lose faith in the liberal arts when the economy is tough, some argue that it is important no matter what field you go into. One advocate for the cause is the New York Times, conservative, columnist David Brooks; see his picture above. He suggests several reasons for why a liberal arts education is important. Humanities, he says, improves your reading and writing skills, and “you will have enormous power if you are the person in the office who can write a clear and concise memo” (“Why liberal arts still matter, especially today”). One of his most interesting arguments for studying humanities is what he calls “familiarity with the language of emotion.” He suggests that branding is one field in which this is extremely important, using as an example the analogy that, although many people can make a product, such as an mp3 player, very few people can create the brand of an iPod. He believes that one must arouse affection using the language of emotion in order to create a brand, and that the only way one can do that is to be versed in the language of romance, by studying the Humanities. By reading the classics people can more easily express their opinions and viewpoints, and as the humanists of the renaissance believed, become more valuable members of the community by being well-rounded, educated people.
Brooks, David. “Why liberal arts still matter, especially today.” Dallas Morning News [Dallas] 8 jun 2010, n. page. Web. 1 Feb. 2012 <http://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/latest-columns/20100608-David-Brooks-Why-liberal-arts-895.ece>.
McKay, John P, Bennett D. Hill, John Buckler, Clare Haru Crowston, and Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks. A History of Western Society. 9th edition. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2008. Print
Smith, Wilson, and Thomas Bender. American Higher Education transformed, 1940-2005: documenting the National Discourse. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008. Google Books. Web. 9 Feb 2012. <http://books.google.com/books?id=KFNy-BIExW8C&lpg=PA163&dq=liberal%20arts%20education%20humanities&pg=PA163#v=onepage&q=liberal%20arts%20
Malekin, Peter. Humanism and the Humanities in the Twenty-first Century. Cranbury: Rosemont Publishing & Printing Corp, 2001. Google Books. Web. 9 Feb 2012. <http://books.google.com/books?id=F1cjv5An4x8C&lpg=PA81&dq=humanities%20in%20the%20current%20world&pg=PA4#v=onepage&q&f=false>