An education in the humanities is defined as “the branches of learning that have a primarily cultural character.” That would include languages, literature, art, music, and philosophy. Humanities teach us what it is to be human; they encourage critical thinking and foster the qualities that promote democracy and justice. An education in the humanities is even more relevant today with the turmoil that our world is in. Great leaders are needed. What do the humanities have to do with that?

Humanities education fosters critical thinking.

Being able to read information and make an accurate judgment is a formidable skill. Colleges seek to hone this skill by requiring the humanities core curriculum early. English classes teach the importance of critically reading text and looking for meaning. Sociology and psychology classes help the student to understand the human mind and how it works. History classes help the student to deduce from past events where things went wrong and how we can avoid the same mistakes.

Critical reading and writing require the student to digest information and then form a judgment based on that information. This practice for critical decision-making skills is required for the workforce and beyond.

Justice, equality, and empathy are encouraged.

We learn about how other cultures have grown and solved problems through the study of their histories and languages. We see how these cultures have grown and shaped through their history and how we can learn from their successes and their mistakes.

The performing and creative arts teach us to find beauty and appreciate the wonder in the world around us. In doing so, students learn a unique perspective on empathy. Learning how to “think outside the box” and be able to see something in a different light is a valuable skill in a world where you may need several different solutions to a problem.

An education in the humanities encourages students to become informed citizens. Democracy is dependent upon people knowing current events and being able to think critically and form judgments. This is true especially today, with the advent of “alternative facts” and “fake news”. The need to critically judge every news source is now more important than ever.

Is an education in the humanities worth it?

All colleges and universities require humanities core classes in order to qualify for a degree. These classes give students a foundation of critical reading and writing that carries them through their college years and makes them better students and adults.

In 2014, less than 7% of students majored in the humanities, yet more than 60% of high-ranking officials in corporations and government hold humanities degrees. Unfortunately, the move has been toward education purely for financial gain. The STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and Business majors have seen an increase in their enrollment in recent years, despite the rise in tuition costs. But do these majors really teach students the skills that they need to succeed in today’s highly competitive job market?

We’ve found a great infographic that shows statistics about Humanities education and funding from all over the world.


Terras, M., Priego, E., Liu, A., Rockwell, G., Siclair, S., Hensler, C., and Thomas, L. (2013) “The Humanities Matter!” Infographic,