It saddens me each day when some “new” (perhaps just a rehash of older ones) article comes out touting the worst college degrees. Whats worse, is that English and Anthropology frequently make these lists.
A few other notables are sociology, fine arts, dance and theater. In short, all the fields that look at the human condition. Art, in its most generalized form, is the very soul of a culture, the very essence of that holistic ideal that conditions our very lives. Paradoxically almost, we live in a society that has very little value for these things in and of themselves. Sure we fork out tons of money to see that summer blockbluster, or buy that popular album, but the fact of the matter is that these popular forms of art are a minority. They represent the most visible part of the Art-iceberg, most of which floats below the surface of the “mainstream.” Most of the art-iceberg is composed of people like myself , artists, musicians, writers, poets and theater people of all stripes that are happy just having their work noticed, and better yet, make a few pennies off of it. The old idiom is very true for me, that the pen is mightier than the sword. Writing, especially of the socio-political variety, has quite literally lead to the rise and fall of civilizations. The American Revolution, Hitler’s Third Reich and the USSR all began as ideas, that were disseminated through writing and art. Ideas are very powerful (and potentially dangerous) things, and these ideas find expression through art and literature.
Art and writing both fall under the long seeing eye of Anthropology, the study of what it means to be human. And that is the big question, now isn’t it? What does it mean to be human? Art, writing and Anthropology are uniquely suited to explore this question. All of these fields look at humanity through time; past, present and future. Personally, I feel that self reflection is good for the soul. So why is America scared to look inward?
Perhaps it is time that we rethink how we determine the value of any one field, not through job prospects and earning potential, but maybe through its contribution to society as a whole. Anthropology can help inform policy and shape our world as we move into the future. Art and writing make us really look at what it means to be human, good, bad and ugly, and sit back and reflect on our choices and individuals and as a whole. I for one support the idea of STEAM (Science, Technology, Arts, Mathematics , that the (liberal) arts and social sciences should play a large part in our society as we move forward. For, if we cannot face our own demons, we are ill prepared for those that await us.