The Humanities at the University of North Florida
The name “liberal arts” comes from the Latin word for free (liber) and originally refers to the kind of education that was considered essential to the life of the (free) citizen of Greece and then of Rome. From the Renaissance to the present, the humanities have been the core of a liberal arts education both in Europe and in America. These studies are for the most part concerned less with uncovering scientific facts and more with understanding the meaning of what it is to live a human life and to experience the world as human beings. The humanities are grounded in the power and urgency of the Socratic dictum – Know Thyself – which is the basis of all transformational learning.
The humanities are represented by interconnected disciplines that enhance our understanding of the traditions, cultures, languages, and religions we come from and belong to. English and Foreign Languages ground an understanding of our literary, poetic, and linguistic traditions, as history, philosophy, and religious studies deepen our reflective understanding of civic pluralism, cultural diversity, and historical complexity. The humanities develop various modes of justifying, questioning, and appreciating our many beliefs and practices. They mutually enhance the critical sense necessary for informed and active citizenship in an emerging global society.
Chief among the goals of a humanities education is the cultivation of the critical spirit and the skills necessary for deliberation and for making high quality choices. Equal to this goal is honing expressive ability – to write, speak, and use other forms of communication in the most effective ways for expressing oneself precisely and eloquently. These capabilities – critical reflection and effective self-expression – provide the foundation for the achievement of the wide range of skills that the humanities promote, skills that contribute in very direct ways to success as a citizen as well as material success in a very broad set of careers.
Students who major in disciplines in the humanities score substantially higher on standardized examinations like the Law School Admission Test (the LSAT) than those majoring in other areas.
A 2012 survey by MillennialBranding and Experience Inc indicated that 30% of the 225 surveyed employers said they were recruiting individuals who had a liberal arts education compared to 34% who were looking for those who had majored in engineering or computer information systems and 18% who were seeking finance and accounting majors. The founder of Millennial Branding said: “The No. 1 skill that employers are looking for are communication skills and liberal arts students who take classes in writing and speaking. They need to become good communicators in order to graduate with a liberal arts degree. Companies are looking for soft skills over hard skills now because hard skills can be learned, while soft skills need to be developed."
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