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.

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If They Die, They Die: The Ethics of American Health Care

red_cross_round_red

Do you want to hear a joke?

…A healthy American.

It would appear that the health of American citizens is a joke to many people in power, and the so-easily coerced masses.  If you’re like me, you have an appetite for the ironic.  The American government has actually convinced about half of its citizens that being healthy is not a fundamental right.  These people have been led to believe that it is treason to support paying taxes towards a collective pool of funds allocated to ensuring that every American citizen can have a right that many other world superpowers have: Health.  In direct result, the United States has a higher infant mortality rate than almost any other civilized country, and about 45,000 people die every year because they are unable to pay for health care.

Health can be a broad term.  To an American, health is a privilege that is given to the ‘hard workers.’ Health is a commodity and for some reason, there just isn’t enough to go around.  This post seeks to explore the American health care system and understand whether or not health is a fundamental right for a citizen.

Many of my readers are not America.  If you are one that is not American, you are probably shaking your head right now and your inner monologue is saying something like this: “These Americans are bloody crazy.”  Please forgive my bad accent.  Another bit of Irony would be the statement that many Americans that hold the opposite viewpoint of mine would say the same thing about you.

The United States has a very unique system for health care.  In America, independently owned and operated businesses are in control of the health insurance system.  Until President Obama introduced the Affordable Health Care Act, or “Obamacare,” health insurance companies were completely unregulated by American government.  This resulted in prices for insurance that were so high, that almost one in every seven Americans was uninsured and could be charged hundreds of thousands of dollars to be treated for any ailment.  These insurance companies could even chose to not insure a person for any reason.  Pregnancy was considered a pre-existing condition.  Ask a single mother about how hard it was to get insurance for her and her child.

It is an interesting thought that health may not be considered a fundamental right in America.  The country was founded on the idea of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but it seems as though the term ‘life’ does not include ‘the preservation of…’

I hold that it can never be ethical to deny the care of a person in need of health care.  The rights of an American do undoubtedly include the right to be healthy in the pursuits of life, liberty, and happiness.  It is the ethical responsibility of any member of the health care system to complete the actions in which they have been trained.  An insurance company or Doctor denying care to a person in need that cannot pay is like a fire fighter choosing to not respond to a call because it’s too far of a drive.

I do believe that health is a self-evident right, but some may not believe so.  Consider the reality of our situation on Earth.  We are the apex species, and yet, thoroughly insignificant by galactic standards.  Our closest possible living, celestial-neighbor is yet undiscovered, but more than a lifetime away from us by current propulsion standards.  All we have is each other.  Sure, there are those that seek unabridged wealth and power and mean to keep it all for their own pleasure. But that is not how our species should strive to be.  It is nothing less than necessary to ensure the best for every member of the species.

The implications of these changes to our health care system are such that there must be a change to a system in which a collective pool of tax dollars are saved for the health emergencies of the citizens.  As I have noted in previous posts, Americas are very individualistic.  The standard retort to a health care system change is: “I don’t want to be forced to pay for someone else’s health care.”  There are two parts to that statement:

The first is they do not want to pay for someone else’s health care.  This is an argument used commonly by people that are fortunate enough to have adequate health insurance.  These people do not understand that they too may not always have the adequate health insurance that they embrace with locked-fists.

The second is that they do not want to be forced to do something.  Again, Americans are very individualistic.  Generally, the idea that Americans do not have the right to choose what they want to do with their money and bodies scares them.  However, the same people that don’t want to be forced to pay for other people’s health care also believe that gays should be forced to stay unmarried and a woman that have been raped must be forced to have the child.

Obviously, that argument is not well thought out and should be considered no more.

America is a great place to live, but the country is losing its status as a superpower.  Our citizens are poor, stupid, and unhealthy.  I have shown that the American idea of health care is broken and that it is the ethical duty of all Americans to embrace a system in which all people have access to health care.

If America is to last into the future, as the mindless ethnocentric citizens wish, an even more drastic change to the way Americans are healed needs to occur. A change that is not only to a broken system, but one that shakes the deepest convictions of the American public.

Twitter: @dustin_mcmahon

Women’s History Month: God is Looking Down on Us, and She is Pissed!

Hands new

As you all know, it is March and that can only mean one thing: Women’s History Month. I’ve decided to show my support for women with a refutation of the religious oppression of women, as well as an exploration into the right way to personify God.

The Problem of God’s Manhood

It is not much of a secret that the Christian church has had a long and spirited history with how to handle the problem of women.  Men had already taken the political, social, and economic power, and left women with household management and child rearing.  This distributing of societal standards set the precedent of which women will have to combat for almost 2000 years. With the rise of Judaism and Christianity in the West (as well as Islam in the East), a golden opportunity appeared to ensure that men would maintain power over women.

In the story of creation from the Old Testament: God created Man in His own image; the woman was created in Man’s image.  It is very interesting that people often overlook the overt sexism that is in the first couple pages of Genesis.  Aside from the numerous instances as God being personified as a man, which I will address in the coming paragraphs, God created man first, and then created a woman for the man.  The story of creation in the Old Testament was a way for men to exercise their claims that men are closer to God than women.

To keep my point manageable, I will not refer directly to the almost enumerable passages about ‘womanservents,’ slave girls,’ and ‘multiple wives in a household,’  or the passages stating that men rule over women, but please note that I am not pulling these connections between female oppression and the Bible out of thin air.

God is thought to being an ultimate, supreme, and perfect being; with qualities of Omnipotence, Omnibenevolence, and Omniscience. This description has held true through more than two millennia (though questioned by many Christian philosophers), and is one of the first pieces of propaganda that children are taught in Sunday school.  God is also said to have human characteristics and traits, based largely on the depiction of God in the Bible, such as love, compassion, morality, and jealousy.  God is the creator, the judge, the jury, and in many cases, the executioner.  God is also a man.

Aside from the obvious paradoxes that come from combining any of these traits into one being (such as a being that is all-powerful and all-good trying to perform an action that is immoral), the assertion that God is a man, or has any trait of manhood has no logical expounder.

To give God a gender is to say that one gender is more God-like than another Gender.  This is to say that one gender, manhood, is more Godly than women, therefore, should hold dominion over the other.  However, many Christian and non-Christian philosophers, including St. Thomas Aquinas have decided that it is impossible for human beings (finite), to understand or comprehend God’s essence (infinite).

For these reasons, we can reasonably toy with the notion that the story in Genesis and the conviction that God is a man are purely propaganda pieces used to oppress the rights of women for whatever the necessary end.

The End of Religious Chauvinism

Is it not possible that if a new monotheistic religion, like Christianity or Judaism were invented today, that the God would personified as a woman?

We understand that the Middle East, circa 200 B.C.E. was not a particularly friendly place for women.  However, now, in the West, women enjoy many of the same rights as men.  Women are known to be physically inferior to men’s strength and muscle mass, but women are shown to have a higher capacity than men in many academic settings.

These facts have led us to a society in which women are thought of as more equal to men than ever before.  Though it must be conceded that women are not considered completely equal to men yet, (women have less opportunity and are paid less in professional settings than men), women are more to our modern civilizations than they have been to any in history.

Women are also the leaders of the household in many homes in our modern societies.  Due to broken homes, a drastic shift in gender roles, and the growing acceptance of homosexuality over the last twenty years, women have become as entrenched in political, social, and economic roles that were until recently, left only to men.  With these changes, the necessity for a monotheistic God to be a man in order for the religion to be socially acceptable is nullified. This means that our modern societies could accept a female God.

If we may look at the traits that I mentioned earlier, which are given to the Judeo-Christian God, we see three main characteristics: Omnipotence, Omnibenevolence, and Omniscience.  A new monotheistic God must have these three traits in order to compare to current God that is perpetuated by the three modern monotheistic religions.  Our new Goddess must have the traits of Infinite Goodness, Infinite Power, and Infinite Knowledge.

It is not hard to believe that our Goddess could be infinitely good/moral.  By our modern societal standards, women are just as moral as men, and less akin to immoral actions of the flesh.  There is a discrepancy that could be argued: The social taboo of women being “sluts” or “whores” could be used as a counterpoint to my point.  However, those terms are a result of a male-driven society and do not hold up to scrutiny.

Our Goddess could also easily be with infinite knowledge.  I argued in an earlier paragraph that women do score higher than men on many academic tests that measure the capacity for learning and understanding in many subject. Therefore, if a male God could be all knowing, so could a female God.

The status of an all-powerful female God could be disputed by a chauvinist.  It cannot be defamed that men are stronger than women physically.  Even so, women, and mothers in particular are the force that give children everything that they need to grow into adulthood.  That is a power that cannot be denied.

Thus far, we have decided that in modern western society, a female monotheistic God is just as possible as a male monotheistic God, but I have not made a claim that would decide for certain that our new God would necessarily be personified as a woman.

Consider this: God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent.  These traits are common with a monotheistic God’s essence.  However, the original purpose of primitive culture’s beliefs in Gods is the explanation of world around us, and before modern science, the answer to how we got here; a creator.  This is how we can know our new monotheistic Goddess will not be hijacked by men and used for oppression.

Women are the creators of life.  Women harbor the necessary tools for reproduction, in which a new life is produced from the previous form of life.  Is this not what the story of creation in any religious tradition is about?

Without the social, political, economic, and household stigmas that held women oppressed for thousands of years, we can be certain of one thing:  Our new monotheistic god will not be an oppressive and jealous oaf that must have a pissing contest with any of the creations that defy Him. Our Goddess will be loving, compassionate, and caring, like a cosmic-mother and creator should be.

Twitter: @dustin_mcmahon