Humanities on the Creative Coast

SRQ Magazine, October 8, 2016
Our region, a little corner of paradise, is graced with an astonishing array of arts and cultural organizations. We have eight professional theaters, an opera, a ballet and a symphony. We have other dance and music troupes, an extraordinary art museum and much more. These arts and cultural organizations are joined by an extraordinary array of research institutions and institutions of higher education and research.
Yet we often undersell ourselves. Or like Thomas of Becket, we yield to the last temptation and make the right case for the wrong reason. We celebrate the arts, citing their economic impact on our region. Never mind that they are an essential part of what makes us human.
And the humanities? The study of history, philosophy, religion and literature? They have few champions. Few willing to stick their hand up to insist they be a vital part of our regional discourse, of every arts and educational institution and of the events that they generate.
No one disputes the importance of the sciences, and no institution does more to educate future scientists than my own. Anywhere from 15 to 25 percent of New College graduates subsequently receive PhDs in mathematics and the sciences, a staggering proportion and by far the highest in the state. Only CalTech, Harvey Mudd, MIT and Reed are comparable. No one else is close.
A third of our students, however, major in the arts and humanities. They go on to become doctors and lawyers, entrepreneurs and business leaders. New College and our neighboring institutions get little credit for educating these students, who will emerge as important and influential citizens.