The Changing Humanities: An Appraisal of Old Values and New Uses

The Changing Humanities: An Appraisal of Old Values and New Uses

The Changing Humanities: An Appraisal of Old Values and New Uses

The Changing Humanities: An Appraisal of Old Values and New Uses

Excerpt

The humanities have two distinguishing marks that are clearly understood by any who look upon education as a part of life, not as an experience of their first quarter century in a particular environment. These are the same identifying qualities as each of us would name first in a definition of civilization; like man himself, the humanities are out of time, but always timeless and changing.

It is true that men have used this term "humanities" in order to distinguish one form of higher education from the parts known as sciences and social sciences. They have done many things that give the humanities institutional settings, such as the creation of libraries and university disciplines of teaching and research. But the humanities are not confined within these formal limits. They do not belong to any class or profession of men. Rather they are the embodiments, in forms that all can understand, of the learning, experience, and expression of humanity. The school boy, as truly as the scholar in his university or the artist in his studio, possesses the values that the humanities hold and give.

We should begin, therefore, to identify their meanings and uses more constantly with people. Like ourselves, they depend on what is past and follow opened paths into the future. They put upon every individual a compulsion to use whatever he gathers from humane experiences in his every act and expression; this natural necessity of personal identification with what we learn of mankind, creates new life out of the old. The humanistic way is always out of what was past and what is present. That it leads through schools and universities is only incidental to its existence, for the way of the humanities existed long before our institutions and will outlast them. Each person enters into that way when he realizes that he himself is part and product of all that the humanities signify.

The mind of every reader turns to what it has known. The meaning, by way of familiar experience, that comes from a printed page to meet . . .

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