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Dr Alistair Brown | Associate lecturer in English Literature; researching video games and literature

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Humanities Graduates Lead the Way. Great.

Friday, January 13, 2012

I suppose I ought to be celebrating a report from the New College of the Humanities that shows that 60% of the UK's leaders in business and government possess humanities degrees. Indeed, a massive 65% of our current MPs studied arts, humanities or social sciences; just 10% had a science, technology or engineering degree.

If I was being cynical, though, I could hardly think of a worse manifesto for the value of the humanities. Considering our current and recent leadership in the UK, one hardly feels optimistic about the extent to which liberal values have been instilled within them. Consider:

  • The humanities encourage one to empathise with those of different cultural backgrounds. George Osbourne (History, Oxford) must have failed this lesson.
  • The humanities reward creative thinking. Admittedly, there are some FTSE 100 banking chiefs who managed to do a lot of this in relation to financial accounting. Shame they lacked the other core humanities skills of reflexive or critical thinking.
  • Humanities provide us with historical and fictional narratives about a troubled world, and so allow us to avoid repeating the same mistakes in the future. Unfortunate that Tony Blair (Jurisprudence, Oxford) never mugged up on his Afghanistan 101.

OK, so I'm being horribly facetious here. But at a time when we are led by a set of socially divisive and market-minded politicians, to herald the humanities as having inculcated a wide and empathetic view of the world in them seems hardly apposite, does it?

PS To be fair to the humanities, our present Tory leaders are acolytes of Margaret Thatcher, who perhaps indicates that it's the political background, not the degree, that determines a leader's view of the world. Her degree: Chemistry.

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Posted by Alistair at 10:40 am


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