Naturally, evolution happens.
You’re not going to find a shorter sentence more loaded with literal and figurative history (plus call-outs to science) than that one I just fuckin’ typed. Book it, done.
On evolution of meaning and intent, for instance, we’ll look at Today’s Featured Image™. Somebody created it somewhere to talk about the Liberal Arts & Humanities. Then, along I came with no real prospects for a featured image, and Google pointed me right at it. Then, I took it for my own purposes. Now, I’m linking to it, thereby opening a new circle of discovery.
But seriously, culture is in constant flux, and evolution wasn’t just for organic lifeforms. People have a tendency to think that language doesn’t adapt or evolve that quickly, but it has its dips and crests, swings and hacks, just like anything else that could be subject to trends or changing environments.
Hell, the proper namesake for this word-delivery device of a blog was first the Latin-inspired pseudonym employed by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay to push the Federalist Papers. At that time, the name was topically in line with Cato and Brutus, themselves both employed as pseudonyms for the Anti-Federalists. Collectively, they were the inspiration for the nation’s first Super PAC ads. That’s my take, anyway. Now, the pseudonym is employed for much the same reason – to mask the author’s identity and separate personality from idea. The message underlying it has evolved with the times, but still requires some thought, and a little bit of aggressive language here and there. Although it probably won’t someday lead to me getting shot in a dual – that’s already scheduled, as the fortune teller predicted…
Back to the topic at hand: evolution of language, and the present day. Surprisingly, it puts us at the heart of an educational matter that was beloved by the same men who originally employed the “Publius” moniker, as well as all of their cohort: Liberal Arts & Humanities.
The phrase “Liberal Arts & Humanities” represent, to the uneducated, some left-wing conspiracy to indoctrinate youth. I would counter that it’s not left-wing, or conspiracy, but it is an indoctrination into the cohorts of learned people. For years, anti-educationalists decried the Liberal Arts & Humanities as problematic and unnecessary. Why waste valuable time learning about all that history and philosophy and language and art? There’s good work in becoming a tradesman.
Yes, there is. Good, honest work. But there’s nothing dishonest about learning more concerning the world around you. Ask the Founding Fathers – they were the highly educated men who created ‘Murica, after all.
To be fair, Mike Rowe’s program isn’t trying to tell people to get dirty jobs, or be manual laborers, or tradesmen, or whatever. He’s saying that there’s pride in it, that there’s a need for it – and he’s absolutely right, for now. But the problem with showcasing these shows is that sooner or later, everything develops a stereotype and critical thought needs to be applied to tear it apart.
And since much of ‘Murica would rather hear the comforting lie than the hard truth, what they hear Mike Rowe saying is that they can hold out for those laborer jobs or they should just go into the trades. During this message, “Another Brick in the Wall” plays softly in their minds, repeating “We don’t need no… education…”
So, the lack of desire to get an education rounded out in the Liberal Arts & Humanities is taking away much of society’s ability to critically-think. Why would they need to, if they’ve got common sense?
Marry that problem with the notion that humanities scholars are just the WORST when it comes to acting downtrodden. Just because no one wants to talk to you about your highly specific research concerning a group of near-historic texts doesn’t mean people in general don’t like to learn things. It just means you’re too specialized.
The fact remains that although the Liberal Arts & Humanities are going away, they always have been. Pick your topic:
- Classical Studies
- Other coursework deemed “unfavorable” simply due to the passage of time
Culture values different paths, pursuits and disciplines over time. In the last quarter-century, that’s been determined a lot by the worst general ed concept to ever escape business schools: Return on Investment.
“For through ROI we can truly measure the sum of a man’s worth. Verily, ROI is the only measurement needed after the convenience-oriented America of the 20th Century became inexplicably
embraced encompassedenhanced by the synergies of the modern business class. Through ROI, we can finally measure the human being’s real worth, apart from all that other flaccidity and measureless clatptrap like artistic endeavor [gasp], creative pursuits [yawn], community involvement [gulp!], or other non-business applications such as the endless human quest to learn What It’s All About [my god!].”
– The Gospel, According to Business, Chapter 2, Verse 1-6
Arguably, the Vikings who were raiding villages were treated better than not when they returned home after a long, violence-filled expedition and had a bunch of loot in tow. It’s like that time your WoW guild went raiding after Legion dropped and everybody came back with legendaries.
Except, while the legendaries were the focal point, there was also the trust that you’d gained in your guildies in the ability to play their class correctly, the enjoyment you took from the end-game content, and the satisfaction that you could feel knowing that you were better than the Morons and Slackers. It wasn’t only about the legendaries. The Vikings knew that.
Arguably, the looming threat of Automation sets the world up quite nicely for a 21st Century Renaissance. That is, if we could ever get past the notion that we’ve got to derive all our value from the paycheck we earn being a cog in the machine. Also, more practical degrees are not going to be the answer.
To this end, we can abandon the phrasing of Liberal Arts & Humanities because it’s useless to everyone but the archivists. Language changes, and if you want to call this a rebranding, do it. Make it useful to the marketers.
Scholars have always had to make their case to funding providers that what they were doing was worth something, and to more than just the scholar. With hyper-capitalism’s purposeful effect of putting most of the wealth in a limited number of hands, then it’s time to make the business-friendly case. Especially when the hands are those of The Capitalists ®™, or as I and Adam Smith like to refer to them, the Economic Masters.
But if changing that phrasing from the downtrodden, nebulous and criticized “Liberal Arts & Humanities” to the upbeat, (equally-nebulous) and possibly business-friendly open, entrepreneurial spirit of “The Discoveries,” gets you into new territory, then you have to do it because that’s exactly what the historic Liberal Arts & Humanities were always about. It would just now exist in the precise intersection where “If You Can’t Be ‘Em, Join ‘Em” enters into a marriage of convenience with “The Times, They Are A-Changin’.”
You had no idea I could tie cliches to Dylan lyrics. Thanks to communicative abilities inherent to The Discoveries, you’ve already become a better human being. Figure out the ROI on that.