Why Study the Humanities?

The Value of a Humanities Degree: Six Students' Views

"Three years ago, we were all freshmen in Stanford University's Structured Liberal Education program, a yearlong residential course that surveys the world's most important works of literature, art, theology, philosophy, and history. From there, each of us went on to major in some humanistic discipline. Now we are seniors, and with our eyes finally up from all the books, we face the specter of life after graduation.

What have we gained? What will we take with us when we leave? What is a major in the humanities worth? Should we measure worth by career utility or by some other value—cognitive, aesthetic, moral? By our skills or by our knowledge?

No doubt many students can attack those questions and reach the same breadth of benefits outside the humanities. At Stanford, many of our classmates are scientists, social scientists, and engineers, and we have great respect for and interest in their studies—not only for their work's clear practical applications but also for the ways in which those students grapple with the world. We argue that our education is just as significant, and just as irreplaceable, as theirs."

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