Humanities and social sciences matter for everyone By Richard H. Brodhead, guest commentary © 2013 Bay Area news Group Posted: 06/22/2013 Updated: 06/24/2013 http://www.contracostatimes.com/ci_23505363/humanities-and-social-sciences-matter-everyone

“With unemployment hovering above 7 percent and the United States facing challenges from Syria to North Korea, you might be surprised by the skills some corporate leaders and military officials say Americans now need…”

This kind of posting is frequent in our print media.  It infuriates me – presses many of my buttons about how we’re supposed to live.  If you’ve read this far you already know why.  I’ll repeat, just because it so irritates me – you know how it feels good to verbalize feelings – we talk about a child’s success, a meeting with a lover, a lovely pair of shoes, a trip – travel, …. These feel good to say.

I need to know I’ve responded to this writing that influences people to succumb to all the elements of schooling that are so oppressive.

The article warns us to prepare against unemployment.  This is not possible in capitalism.  Too many people study in fields impelled by this kind of direction, telling which fields of study – at the college and plus levels will get us good employment.  Too often people follow these directions and then find the excess numbers of qualified workers in that skill causes there to be no available position in that field anymore. Or the degreed person has to go from one job to the next trying to get close to being able to maximize their income and their security at some job they can get because of their degree/s.  Too often no such job is found at all and the schooling has no bearing except having awarded the degrees – the worker having gotten a college ‘education’, so is employable at some job better than ‘hamburger flipping’, THE prime example of failure in employment; the driving force that lets one know they have failed to make the right choice for schooling.   Again, this is common in capitalism.

Capitalism requires that most people feel incompetent, failures. Proud, strong, confident, supported people will not take the insult and deprivation of bad pay, unemployment – with it’s super-crazy-making having to run around trying to get employment. The rise in resistance, insurrection, struggle.

One way media colludes with the capitalist structure is to urge many people to study in a field; teaching, biological research, computer techniques, doctoring, etc etc.  That way the overabundance of eligible employees will keep the waged relationship where it commonly is – poorly paid, with limited or no security, limited or no benefits, the content of the job boring and repetitive, Taylorist limitations having been applied to limit the workers’ input, imagination, ownership of the area of the work, their self respect at the job; and push for ever increased output. 15 minute doctor visits inDEED!!! Be FUrious!

The article talks about the U.S. needing to compete with other competitive locales throughout the world; thereby, the need for the labor force to fit the need to make outstanding achievements at the jobs.  The worker, the well schooled, heavily indebted worker is like a robot, made to fit into the Owners’ production niche, to win against other producers, winning the business in monopolistic manners against all competitors, getting the most profit,  having few or no challengers against their ascendance.

Workers are forced to strive, to get ahead, to take advantage of – not to miss – opportunities. These are competitive behaviors particularly relative to making us believe there is a shortage of sufficiency and that we have to run over others of our brothers and sisters. But we know we are able to provide us all plenty – if we don’t have to enrich The Rich.

These are the opposite of joyful work and cooperation, the elements that are natural for us for all our work.   Not allowing that is a mark of our alienation – the alienation Marx identifies throughout his work.   We do want to cooperate.  It’s easier…and friendly.  When competition isn’t rewarded – by financial gain, by raised status, by the appearance of job security, pension – the causes of the competition we’re accustomed to, we won’t compete – in that way.

This writer, Broadhead, and the system we live in want us to shore up “American prosperity and national security” , now deciding that these objectives require that students be trained in the humanities and social sciences.

If instead people would begin working – being integral to production – from their earliest age, they’d have been including those as part of their work.  The problem is again, the divide in order to conquer – the commodify in order to divide – name elements of knowledge in order to separate them; then sell them – courses separated from the whole body of knowledge from the 3rd grade and earlier, on.   Math – is part of science, is part of social studies is part of literature is part of gym-recess-playing around is part of arts – .

The separation is a control device.  It gives us a people to rule over elements of our lives – that have been separated out – by custom, by the profiting.  If a person or body of people can control an element of knowledge, an element of production, an element of living – washing dishes, doing research, child-care, teaching, making a device everyone suddenly has to have – they can claim it as a niche wherein they can profit; they can OWN it; they can extract it from the commons – for their profit.   And they can reconstruct it, redefine it – so that its obvious definition to us because of our common uses of it becomes muddled, controlled by the Owner of it.

We are “warned of serious consequences” if we don’t follow this ‘new’ directive – to give a broad education – that is, to allow more of the natural thinking and studying along with study of an area by which the student will have a job, make a salary, perhaps even find a way to become free of being tied to a wage; perhaps even become one of the super rich by that study – or an analogous one, or even through a distant study that was done fortuitously, accidentally, because previous study led to it.  Whether or not the end – to profit – is always in mind, finding that niche to control by which to benefit for life, is central.   Three people winning Nobels for the same area of invention is usually accidental, not intentional; usually the winners didn’t know they were working in the same areas.  That the Nobel found them all – only means that the multitude of others who were working on or near the topic are not known, not recognized.   Instead of publishing to the world that ‘I’m working in this area; are you?  Can we collaborate?”, the effort is jealously guarded.  And the prize is great; 10s of 1000s of dollars and more come to the victors.

And the humanities and social sciences broaden the students’, the researchers’, the technicians’ approaches, so they can win – the prize/s, the awards, the recognition, that is rewarded by lessened obligation to clean up after themselves; more opportunity to require the janitor and maid to do the ‘lowly’ work, while the star basks in the luxuries accorded to a person who does not wash to keep their environment clean.

Invariably now, so much performance having been grabbed to individual owners, investors, ‘middlemen’, who profit off employees’ work, the glory goes to both, the accident of creation not being the only way to get the reward/s.  The booking agent, the broker, the head of the insurance company that sets the rules for doctoring, they are first in line to have society shake their hand, lavish the praise on them.  The football player – what a contradiction!!!! – you player, suffer suicidally on the field.  The team Owner wins.  But the player had to get through  – They don’t all have to get through college, do they?

I can’t put up with professional sports.   They hurt me too hard.

“Producing broadly capable people”, who can best make profits for owners of the businesses these people are produced to enter – the robot-person, produced out of a machine – of schooling – to be the money-making machine.

I don’t have to mourn the routing of the pleasure of work and play into the path of profiting.  You know it.

The article goes on to conspire a process of preparing always, to serve in the profit system, discovering elements of living that were discarded as efficiency on the job – and in the home! – no loss of movement to casual disorder – As efficiency, time-saving was raised to the standard we now know.  Shop efficiently.  Cook efficiently – all those murderous prepared meals using those processed foods – processed to taste good by adding a flavor – not a flavor natural to the food; an artificial taste made from health defying combinations of extractions from once organic materials, thus named ‘natural flavors’ on the wasteful packaging.

Here’s a grand line from the article:  “Faculty at our colleges and universities, too, should form collaborations with K-12 educators. They also might reach beyond their own disciplines to join with colleagues across their campuses to provide the diverse perspectives required to tackle “grand challenges” such as global conflict or urban poverty. Meanwhile, government agencies needing students with advanced language skills and transnational expertise should work in new ways with universities to provide the necessary training.

“Especially amid the current budget battles in Washington, some may be tempted to dismiss these disciplines as a frill that’s fine for interested students to spend time with on their way to medical school or the corporate world, but hardly essential for landing a job in a tough economy. Those who actually run businesses and institutions, and whose cultural leadership help define our civilization, know this argument is wrong. Without broad training across the arts and sciences, they agreed, young people will struggle to thrive in a global economy or engage successfully in the demands of citizenship.”   We agree – they’re right – but for the wrong reasons, for the wrong methods.  The living, the natural reading literature, researching, comparing notes together, cleaning one’s spaces around them, dancing a while,  – all those were once part of how people functioned.  Then they were extracted for ‘efficiency’; and now put back for profit.  Mechanize the arts and sciences; put them onto the worker so they can do the job of getting The Rich to Mars as Earth become useless for most of us…

Humanities and social sciences matter, for everyone By Richard H. Brodhead, guest commentary © 2013 Bay Area news Group POSTED:  06/24/2013

With unemployment hovering above 7 percent and the United States facing challenges from Syria to North Korea, you might be surprised by the skills some corporate leaders and military officials say Americans now need to succeed in the global economy and political arena.

James McNerney, the CEO of Boeing, for instance, says his most successful engineers are not only technically proficient but also able to communicate and interact with people from divergent backgrounds. Karl Eikenberry, who headed U.S. military and diplomatic efforts in Afghanistan, speaks eloquently about the military importance of studying foreign languages, histories and cultures, and beliefs and ethical systems different from our own.

Even Norm Augustine, the longtime head of Lockheed Martin who led a celebrated 2006 National Academy of Sciences study that warned of a “gathering storm” in U.S. competitiveness unless dramatic improvements were made in sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics education, says STEM fields alone are an insufficient preparation for life.

All three men recognize that American prosperity and national security also require, with growing urgency, excellence in the humanities and social sciences. They were among the members of a national commission who recently warned of serious consequences if the United States doesn’t embrace these disciplines and act to strengthen them.

A bipartisan group of U.S. senators and representatives requested the report from our group, which was convened by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Its members ranged from business and academic leaders to filmmakers Ken Burns and George Lucas, musicians Yo-Yo Ma and Emmylou Harris, actor John Lithgow and retired Supreme Court Justice David Souter. I chaired the group with John Rowe, the retired CEO of the Exelon Corp.

Time and again, we heard from experts across a wide swath of American society that we collectively need to do a better job of producing broadly capable people who can live up to their personal potential and fill all the roles a complex world requires. This training must go beyond vocational and technical skills, providing a balanced, integrated education that includes the humanities and the social sciences alongside mathematics and the physical and natural sciences.

The humanities — languages, literature, history, jurisprudence, philosophy, comparative religion, ethics, history and arts criticism — tell our shared story as a culture and help us appreciate our commonalities and differences. The social sciences — including anthropology, archaeology, economics, political science, sociology and psychology — analyze the lives of individuals and societies, revealing patterns of behavior and interpersonal dynamics.

Together, these subjects offer an intellectual framework to understand our changing world, whether it’s turmoil in the Middle East, swings in the stock market or a cultural controversy in Hollywood. They teach us to question, analyze and communicate — skills that are critically important in shaping adults who can become independent thinkers and citizens.

Our report recommends expanding support for teaching the humanities and social sciences. More Americans need to learn foreign languages. Our museums, libraries and cultural organizations all might form new partnerships to foster lifelong curiosity and learning. A new Humanities Master Teacher Corps could assist classroom teachers.

Faculty at our colleges and universities, too, should form collaborations with K-12 educators. They also might reach beyond their own disciplines to join with colleagues across their campuses to provide the diverse perspectives required to tackle “grand challenges” such as global conflict or urban poverty. Meanwhile, government agencies needing students with advanced language skills and transnational expertise should work in new ways with universities to provide the necessary training.

Especially amid the current budget battles in Washington, some may be tempted to dismiss these disciplines as a frill that’s fine for interested students to spend time with on their way to medical school or the corporate world, but hardly essential for landing a job in a tough economy. Those who actually run businesses and institutions, and whose cultural leadership help define our civilization, know this argument is wrong. Without broad training across the arts and sciences, they agreed, young people will struggle to thrive in a global economy or engage successfully in the demands of citizenship.

An education aimed at cultivating these competencies cannot be reserved for an elite few. In our democratic society, the humanities and social sciences matter, for everyone.

Richard H. Brodhead, the president of Duke University, co-chaired the American Academy of Arts and Sciences commission.

normaha@pacbell.net

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