In Praise of the Humanities and Social Sciences

I respect the sciences and what they have brought to my world: the ability to read at night; to drive or take the train or fly to visit friends and family; to not worry about polio or small pox; to do research at my desk rather than through the card catalogue at the library; to experience an endless fascination with the space program; to watch movies about those intrepid people who try to scale Mt. Everest.

I was a humanities kid, though. I wrote letters to my mother every day from camp from age 12 to 19, and then well into my 30s until her death. She wrote back in her distinctive handwriting every day, always signing off, Much love, Mother. I began saving her letters at some point in my adult life, and reading them now, they provide insight into her life and thoughts and care for her family. I treasure them.

In any event, never wild about dissecting earth worms or doing math calculations for physics, I found my path in a 12th grade government class. That led to becoming a political science major in college and adding a double major in history. It was the Cold War era, and we really did talk theory and philosophy and how the past related to the present. The best reads, though, were in history. My favorite class was Modern Germany with Professor Richard Hull, and the most fascinating book was Alan Bullock’s Hitler: A Study in Tyranny. Those classes in history and political science still color my view of the modern world.

I took other classes, too, in English, anthropology (loved linguistics), economics, speech as it was then called, Spanish and Hebrew. And then added education and student teaching. I loved my studies.

All of that led me on a great professional path, continually exercising my writing and analytical skills and also my creativity. That path would not have been possible without the years of letter writing with my mom, certainly, but I needed more – the rigor of a humanities and social sciences education in college. I benefitted from the academic discourse and from conducting research in the college library and in the Mid-Manhattan Library in New York City, testing ideas and developing theories, then putting my thoughts and analyses on paper via an electric typewriter. Humanities not worthwhile? Not leading to a career? Balderdash!