There's No Crisis in the Humanities If We're Talking about It
Byline: GUEST VIEWPOINT By Adam Davis
We are hearing about an odd sort of crisis in this country right now - not a humanitarian crisis, but a humanities crisis. From federal commissions to college presidents to New York Times columnists, the word is in.
The humanities are in crisis.
What, you might be asking, are the humanities? And how could they be in crisis?
The humanities are efforts to understand the world and to find and create meaning. These efforts happen not in a lab or a studio but in conversation, often around stories. When we try to figure out what some story means to us, whether that story explains why apples fall to the ground or shows policemen pointing a hose at a group of marchers, we're doing the humanities.
"What does that mean to us?" is the central question of the humanities.
A crisis in the humanities means something to us, whoever we are, wherever we happen to work or live, because we live better - in more vital, connected, satisfying ways - when we are able to talk with one another about what matters and why.
The capacity to talk with one another - particularly with those who come at things from other perspectives than our own - helps us work through crises. It also helps us decrease the likelihood of crises arising and helps us get to know one another and live more fully in our communities and in our own lives.
So if there is a crisis in the humanities, it is not only a question for college and university administrators.
We do the humanities everywhere. Whether we are nurses or doctors or social workers, soldiers or AmeriCorps members or volunteers, community members or parents or worshippers, we regularly ask ourselves and one another about the meaning of what we do and could do. …