The Case For Humanities

the school of athens

As it happens, I am a university student. When asked what I study is, I excitedly spout the words “philosophy” and “political science”. Instead of the inquiry of interest I hope for from my conversation partner, I almost without fail seem to hear the some variation of this question: “Philosophy (or political science), what can you do with that degree?” Admittedly, that response crawls through my veins and turns my extremities cold. I do not hold resentment for those that have asked me that question, for they mean no ill. However, I still feel a certain disconnect that compels me to flirt with the response “What does it matter to you?”

It doesn’t take a looking-glass to understand that the job market is desolate at the moment. Recent studies have shown mixed results, but state that the market is short about 9 million job opportunities. The unemployment rate for young high school graduates is about 30%. Unemployment plagues those with college degrees too, but only to a fraction of the extent as it does for those without a degree; the unemployment rate for young college graduates is at about 8.8% (1).

If I am feeling particularly masochistic, I will sometimes choke down my pride and read one of the opinion articles posted on various news portals (Yahoo!, MSN, etc.). Generally, the titles read something like “10 Worst College Majors for Finding a Job,” or “These Degrees Will Hold You Back in the Job Market.” We have all seen these editorials. The aim of such pieces are well-intentioned, warning about the financial dangers of education in any area of study minus a few booming fields. The editorials will start with a some introductory paragraphs to grasp the reader and then list off a vendetta-driven diatribe against humanities, fine arts, journalism, and a few other college majors that fail at a slightly higher rate to give graduates a high paying position out of right out of college. Then, to give you an optimistic shift in pacing, the piece will offer advice on which major to choose instead. Don’t study humanities, instead, try nursing –it only carries a 6.2% unemployment rate.

The mistake being made by these writers, who generally write for financial websites, is that the only use of university is to ensure a higher-paying job than that which is available for non-graduates. As I stated preciously, the intention of that point of view is pure, simply misplaced. While one goal of a college student should be the monetary return from the investment of education, the main purpose is, and should be, the tangible knowledge gained. This includes the material studied, the life experiences gained, and the research tactics developed to give the student not only an edge in critical thinking that could dwarf that of an American high school graduate, but the methods and practice needed to create a citizen that understands the importance of being informed by truly viable sources; this is opposed to those that read the headlines on cable news networks as if the titles are Shakespearean, or the gospel-truth.

I want a job that will support a family. I have a slightly naïve hope that in the future, my spouse will be free to pursue their own interests without the necessity to sacrifice individual values, hopes, and dreams for the sake of feeding our offspring; we all have this dream. I understand to achieve this vision, a number of variables have to fall in the correct way. I can make mistakes, but I have to make the right mistakes. No matter how unlikely the end, I still practice a flirtation with this dream.

For the best chance to turn the dream into reality, I could drop my humanities course work and focus of business, medicine, or law. Statistics show that those degrees are spouting out working-class Americans and climbers of the capitalist mountain by the truckload. The notion of easier-money is salivating, and yet, wholly unappetizing. To do so would be to turn my aspirations or a career that I cherish to martyrdom in search of cryptic life of finance. Though I would complete the goal of feeding my family, it would be at the expense of my happiness and, without a doubt, implode my family life after I experience years of inward-torture. I know my spouse would have the same feeling.

The truth as advertised is that I, along with my colleagues in humanities, the arts, and others don’t care about the money. We do what we do because we are compelled to. I could not change my love of wisdom and politics any more than a bullied teen could have the gay prayed out of him. To us, the weight of our wallet is of less worth the weight of our knowledge. The enjoyment does not come solely from the return, but also from the journey of learning—the process is also the payoff. It may sound cliché, and maybe a bit romantic, but the truth is that we are following an internal calling that cannot be silenced.

The thought that institutions of higher learning have the sole purpose of simply training employees is a relatively new idea. As long as knowledge and research methods have been traded, the aim has not been financial return (unless you are from the school of Sophists). Instead, institutions like Plato’s Academy, or Pythagoras’ colony of wisdom worshipers practiced learning and though not for financial gain, but for the pure love of wisdom.

So, the crosshair of the humanities major is set on education for the sake of education,rather than education for the sake of financial benefit. The concept may seem foreign to those that were ushered into college by well-to-do parents. “Johnny, you need to go to college to get a good job.” Still, the problem of finding a job is an open case.

One article explaining the value of “practical” college degrees reads as such:

Liberal arts and sciences. An assortment of humanities courses might round out your intellect, but it could also confuse employers who don’t understand what kind of job a liberal arts major is supposed to prepare you for” (2).

Did you know that by studying humanities, you are going to “confuse employers?” Your would-be bosses won’t know what to make of the course work or your knowledge of crazy things like the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, or Roosevelt’s New Deal. You’d be better off following your liberal college professors, listening to them rabble-rouse around town like the students of Socrates.

The truth is that employers are looking for people that are well-rounded critical thinkers. You can obtain those abilities by majoring in business, or law, but you will surely gain that and more as a humanities student. The only draw of business majors is the lack of necessity for a few weeks of on the job training. In today’s face-paced world, there is no time to hold the presses for a month to train the incoming class. There is no room for humanities majors in the working class. Or, so they say.

The truth, however, seems to be stranger than fiction.

After I get over my momentary lapse in good-will, I respond to the question posed to me. “What can you do with a philosophy degree?” I refer to a recruitment sheet done by the University of Connecticut’s Philosophy department. In the guide, references are made to the fact that philosophy majors are “rank[ed] 16th out of 50 studied—above chemistry, marketing, information technology, and business management,” in mid-career median salary. The list also states some “actual careers of UCONN Philosophy majors” like judge, teacher, dentist, attorney, corporate president, cinema writer/producer, and many more. Philosophy majors, along with other humanities majors like History and English, rank above the sciences in admission to medical school. Likewise, admission to law school is no different. And graduate school –you guessed it, philosophy majors have “the highest average among all majors on both the Verbal and analytical writing sections of the GRE” (3).

So, if you are like me and are put on trial every time a family member, friend of a friend, or interviewer asks you “What are you going to do with your that degree,” you can use the same response I do: “I can do anything I want with my degree.”

Now, for some homework: Ask yourself, “Am I truly happy with my current career, or the career path I have chosen?” Do you think that the way you have lived your life promotes your best internal interests and callings?

I chose “The School of Athens” by Raphael for this post to express the significance of study in wisdom and humanities.

Twitter: @dustin_mcmahon

Works Cited:

(1) Shierholz, Heidi, Natalie Sabadish, and Nicholas Finio. “The Economic Policy Institute.”Economic Policy Institute. N.p., 10 Apr. 2013. Web. 12 Aug. 2013

(2) Newman, Rick. “The 10 Worst Majors for Finding a Good Job.” Yahoo! Finance. N.p., 18 June 2013. Web. 12 Aug. 2013.

(3) “”What Can I Do with PHILOSOPHY?”” University of Connecticut Philosophy Department. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Aug. 2013.

Same-Sex Marriage Part IV: The Inevitability of Reason

peace on earth

“Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle. You don’t have to know Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

Reflection on this quote from the greatest voice of peace and the foremost-leader in the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King, Jr. makes me hope for a time similar to the one that Dr. King fought for.   His, a utopia where color was not seen, but people were people.  Mine, a time in which a person may openly express who they are, who they love, and how they feel; a time in which people are not believed to be lesser for qualities they hold.  This is my dream.

I have examined a brief history of the homosexual social taboo, stated and rebutted the arguments against same-sex marriage, and presented a case for marriage equality.  It is clear to me that revocation of the rights of homosexuals, including the right to be recognized under marriage, would be a violation of the innate rights understood by our species.

We are all members of the same species, made of the same matter, with the same physical properties.  It seems to be that petty differences in lifestyle, hope, fear, education, etc. are minuscule.  And yet, amplified they remain, as a vessel by which the greedy will take control over the passive, the violent will harm the peaceful, and the wicked will rule the good.

“Cannot swords be turned to plowshares? Can we and all nations not live in peace? In our obsession with antagonisms of the moment, we often forget how much unites all the members of humanity. Perhaps we need some outside, universal threat to make us recognize this common bond. I occasionally think how quickly our differences worldwide would vanish if we were facing an alien threat from outside this world. And yet, I ask you, is not an alien force already among us? What could be more alien to the universal aspirations of our peoples than war and the threat of war?”

– Ronald Reagan

The time is now.  The United States Supreme Court will rule on the cases presented to them in March of 2013, and they will decide that a person’s sexual orientation is not a means by which it is acceptable to deny marriage rights to.  The Defense of Marriage Act will be lifted and, like No Child Left Behind, there will be no place for misleading and heinous legislation in our country.

We cannot allow petty differences in lifestyle to give rise to the destruction remaining in foundation of liberty that we enjoy, and yet, allow to fade away in times of need.  We cannot allow bronze-age literature to control legislation.  We cannot advocate the demise of progress.  The time for meaningful rhetoric is now.  The time for change is now. The inevitability of reason arising is at hand. The world is evolving, and our social values are no different.  It is only with the acceptance of alternative lifestyles as normal that we can lift the veil of deceit from over our eyes.  We are not different.  It is only through peace

Twitter: @dustin_mcmahon

Same-Sex Marriage Part I: A Queer History

same sex marriage

Virginia, 1835 – Can it not be said that because Negros are lower forms of being in God’s great plan, that it would be blasphemy to the Lord’s word to allow them liberty the same as Whites?  It is not by man’s fear of the unbiased allocation of power that drives the status of blacks in the South, but that nature of which God has given Blacks and Whites that hold on this Earth.  White men and women were endowed by their creator with large brains, reasoning capabilities, and with the determination it takes to learn, and comprehend.  Negro men and women were created for a more simple life; for a more simple work.  Those Blacks owe their lives to White men and women because without them, Negros would be lost.  Do not let the Negro’s destroy our livelihood.  Together we are strong and will not fail.  –An interpretation of arguments presented by many Southern Slave owners and advocates, included Elisa McCord

Germany, 1939 – Our once great nation of Germany, still in shambles from the Great War two decades ago, is having its rebuilding efforts thwarted by a growing enemy within.  The Jews are destroying any chance we have to make our country great again.  Our economy is struggling, our government is failing, and our livelihood is lost, unless we take action.  The Jews must be erased from Europe. They are pests that mock our savior and jest at our hopes for a future of prosperity.  Join together, people of Germany, and unite against this enemy.  Together we are strong and will not fail.  – An Interpretation of arguments made by German leaders that lead up to the start of World War II

United States, 2010 – A devil has been allowed to rise to prominence in our society.  A deviant and bottom-dwelling lifestyle choice with aims at undermining all of the moral teachings that had been propagated in the last fifty years is spreading.  This disease will take children and destroy the foundation which they need to become great workers and leaders in our country.  It will annihilate the traditional family as we know it.  This unhealthy and unnatural existence is plaguing the overtones of our growing problem of immorality.   The gays must be eradicated.  Remove them and their kind from our churches, communities, and public offices.  Until they decide to live the lifestyle that we live, disallow fundamental rights that we, the majority hold. Together we are strong and will not fail. –An interpretation of arguments that have been made to me while discussing the topic of same-sex marriage with people in my personal life

It would seem that these narratives are obviously facetious and worthy of the ridicule to their represented points of view.  As a society, we observe that blacks are not only three-fifths of a person and that people of all religious upbringings can and should be allowed to be productive members of our society.  However, there is still one battle being fought in our society and legal system.  That which would allow gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender couples to wed and enjoy the same rights that any other couple would.

In the 1950s, American suburban dwellers started to become more aware of homosexuality.  The decade was ripe with propaganda. There was even (mis)information floating around that homosexuality was linked with child-molestation.

The video above speaks of homosexuality as “a sickness of the mind.”  A homosexual is described as “Someone who demands intimate relations with someone of the same sex.”  The view of homosexuality being linked to child-molestation has since been accepted as false by society, but there is still a fear of homosexuality as if it was an intentional obscenity uttered by those that would seek to do harm to the establishment.

Society was not ready to accept gays at that time, and wouldn’t be for decades to come.  Ten years later, however, saw the civil rights movement for African-Americans.  It was a time in which societal standards of acceptance and disallowance of discrimination first came to fruition in America.  This was the ignition of social acceptance movements that many are still fighting for today.

The 1970s and 1980s saw a partial change in social norms.  As the household structure and gender roles of the home had begun shifting because of the rise of women in the workplace, it was also starting to become acceptable to be an openly-gay man or woman to lead more public lives.  While still dangerous and unaccepted by some, prominent figureheads in the LGBT movement showed the masses that homosexuality was not heinous like the previous generation had been led to believe.

Then, in 1981, five gay men were hospitalized with a new disease.  These men had severely-compromised immune systems and all perished.  By the end of 1981, five to six new cases were being reported every week.  In June of 1982, there had been 355 cases isolated.  The next month, the condition was given a name: Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, AIDS.  AIDS ravished the homosexual community and led to a worldwide change in how sexual relations were practiced.

Many people thought that this disease could only affect homosexual people, but in 1991, NBA player Magic Johnson announced that he had HIV and went on to crusade for the spread of knowledge about the disease.  There is still no definite cure.

Now, we face a new challenge.  The millennium has come and gone and there is still a disconnection between fundamental rights of ‘straight’ couples and that of homosexual couples.  Over the next three parts of this series, I will discuss the arguments on both sides.

I aim to explore the religious and non-religious reasons why same-sex marriage should/should not be allowed; to try and understand the worthiness of any claim that people of any kind are, and can be treated as unequal in liberty or rights.

I will also discuss the common arguments for the acceptance and allowance of same-sex marriage, as well as presenting some of my own, in order to shed light on the growing movement of advocation that is sweeping modern civilization.

This is an issue of equality.  Our aim is to decide how much is too much when it comes to equal rights – or to decide that people are to be allowed the same opportunities across the board.

The next part to my series will discuss the arguments against same-sex marriage. Please continue to follow this page, share with your friends and colleagues, and discuss with each other (in a civil, understanding, and open way) in the comments.  Respect others as you discuss the topic because they likely have just as much reason to feel strongly about their side as you do to yours.

Twitter: @dustin_mcmahon

Cloudy With a Chance of Acid-Rain: How to Turn Our Blue Planet Green

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It is hard for many to take environmentalism seriously.  Even the term ‘environmentalist’ lends itself to harsh and humiliating social terms that make the practice seem unfashionable.  The public’s perception of environmentalists always ties into ‘liberal’ agendas.  This misconception is a dangerous idea that has been allowed to fester and will be the death of the planet and all living organisms on it, unless it is changed.

The issue of protecting the ecosystems, the inhabitants of, and the planet itself is not a political issue.  It is an issue of humanity, and an obligation of the rational-beings we have evolved to be.  Homo sapiens are the most successful macroscopic being on Earth, and have developed the ability to reason (though some choose not to), and therefore, have the duty as apex-species to protect the ecosystems that we are destroying with our gross overpopulation and the consequences of our advanced societies.

I submit to you, a plea to actively pursue a change in mindset of how the average person affects the habitat in which they reside.  Americans in particular are extremely passive in attempts to minimize the harm that they do.  To change for the better, we must have a reform of the way we live our lives, as well as supporting funding for clean resources and energy requirements for the technology we use.

Human beings are the most harmful thing to ever happen to planet Earth.  We are one of the most adaptable organisms on the planet, we are an apex-species, and our brains are developed to the point in which we can affect the entire planet as a collective, be it for good or harm.

Cane toads were introduced to Australia in 1935 with the aim of eliminating an insect that had been effecting sugarcane growth in parts of the country.  The effects of the toads on the ecosystem were unprecedented.  Now, almost three quarters of a century later, the toads are overpopulating and killing many large predators that have not had time to adapt to the toxins in the toad’s skin.

These toads do not have the mental ability to understand the harm that their presence is doing to the ecosystem.  Human beings do, and yet, choose to abstain from real solutions.  With our ability to rationalize actions, we have an obligation to protect and preserve the land and species we affect.

The problems of our overpopulation of the planet are much more wide-ranging, but just as harmful as the Cane toads in Australia.  Human beings are polluting the oceans, destroying the atmosphere, and pushing species that are unnecessary to our survival into extinction.  It is no coincidence that populations of cows, chickens, and pigs are booming, while the populations of snow leopards, giant pandas, and white rhinos are dying out.  These are not a result of natural selection, but of our infringement into the territory of those species, as well as the selfish slaughtering of those animals for parts.  It can be debated if the end to Darwin’s natural selection inevitably comes with the destruction of all species on the planet, except one op species, and a few others that are allowed to continue as sustenance, but does not have to be that way.

Outside of the challenges our species causes to other living inhabitants of the planet, we are pushing gases into the atmosphere that destroys our only protect from the sun, while defiling our planet’s natural sources of drinkable water, and condemning the rainforests, which are the planet’s source of 80 percent of its oxygen.  As a result, we are committing a mass murder/suicide.  Humans are destroying their own sources of water, oxygen, and cosmic protection while simultaneously condemning any creature that still lives, or would continue to survive after we perish.  It is impossible to morally justify these actions.

Whether one chooses to ‘believe’ it or not, scientists in all fields agree that global warming and the greenhouse effect are occurring.  Cosmic rays from the sun are becoming trapped inside our atmosphere, causing rapid changes in the temperatures and weather conditions of our planet.  Whether global warming is happening rapidly or not, immediate actions are necessary to prevent any more damage, or one day soon, our beautiful blue planet will be as desolate and as uninhabitable as Venus.  We caused this process to accelerate, with the air pollution we allow (and I’m not talking about Justin Bieber).

It was not until the 2000s that recycling became ‘fashionable’ in American society.  Though European countries have been recycling since the 1970s and in some cases longer, it is not enough to stop the destruction that the materials we use and pollutants we throw away cause.

Big business markets ‘green’ materials to consumers because those items sell, not because those items are better for our planet.  Companies are still largely unregulated in the products that are manufactured, the pollutants from machinery that are spewed from factories, and the materials used in many household products like Styrofoam.  Citizens must actively support legislation and legislators that will endorse regulations on companies large enough to affect the planet on a massively-negative scale.

We, as consumers have been fed the idea that ‘buying green’ or reusing grocery bags is enough to protect our planet and its resources, but that is false.  These are passive activities that, while mildly-effective, do not give substantial support to the wildlife and natural resources on Earth.

The mindset of “I will help the environment when it is convenient for me,” must change.  Support regulation on the largest producers of pollution.  As electors, we do have the power.  If it is the focus of the vast majority of constituents, the elected officials will follow or they will be unemployed.  Help control human overpopulation, in any way you can and curve the destruction of our ecosystem for artificial growth.  The power is in our hands.

Every person must take responsibility for the consequences of their actions.  The human mind is not often used to look at the world in a broad spectrum, and I fear action will not be taken until much more luminous problems arise from our actions.  By then, it will be too late.  Look beyond yourself and strive for humanity, not the individual.  Advocate clean energy, low-emission transportation, and reusable materials.  Support those who would do well for the environment.

The planet will be here tomorrow, whether or not you are.  It is imperative that you live proactively to ensure the continuation of our personal cosmic wonder.

 

Twitter: @dustin_mcmahon

1000 Hits: To Continue a Great Dialogue

Friends,

It has been a six days since my last post.  I do not have a set schedule of when to write posts, I had just been writing when I had free time.  Unfortunately, I have not had that luxury in the past week.  I will come back as soon as tomorrow evening with another topic of discussion that I hope will be as lively as my posts about health care, gun control, religion, and conservatism.

I started this ‘blog’ three weeks ago with no aspirations.  Yesterday, I surpassed the mark of 1000 views. I want to express my gratitude to all of you for coming to read and discuss the topics that I find interesting.

I have also been receiving a large number of comments.  I have been trying to answer all of them and will continue to do so, but please forgive me if I do not reply immediately to them.  I value all of your opinions, as I hope you value mine and encourage you to continue discussing these issues with me and among each other.

I hope that our great dialogue can continue to 1000 more site views and beyond.

Thank you,

Dustin McMahon