We Need the Humanities More Than Ever

Over the last decade or so there has been a big push in North America to get students in to STEM education. Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) are important to study, but they need to be studied alongside the humanities. The push for STEM is a result of the success of the tech sector and how some parts of society have missed out on that success. However, problems arise when we support one of thinking at the expense of others; now, there is a push to bring balance to the education system by celebrating holistic eduction as much as we did STEM.

Sixty years ago this month, CP Snow’s influential, much-debated essay The Two Cultures was published in the New Statesman. He wrote of a “traditional culture” that was “mainly literary”, behaving “like a state whose power is rapidly declining – standing on its precarious dignity … too much on the defensive to show any generous imagination to the forces which must inevitably reshape it”. He characterised scientific culture, on the other hand, as “expansive, not restrictive, confident at the roots, the more confident after its bout of Oppenheimerian self-criticism, certain that history is on its side…”

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Teenage Pregnancy Rates Plummet Thanks to Birth Control


Just over a decade ago the documentary The Education of Shelby Knox looked at how pathetically backwards sex education is in the USA. Thanks to documentaries and compounding evidence that asbstinance-only education has no impact on teen pregnancy rates (it does increase STI/STD rates though!) sex education is no different. The USA is catching up with the rest of the developed world when it comes to talking to teens about birth control.

Since 2007, teens have become better informed of their choices around birth control and are using that knowledge.

What changed was how teenage girls used contraceptives. The percentage of sexually active teens who used at least one type of birth control the last time they had sex rose from 78 percent in 2007 to 86 percent in 2012. More teens gravitated toward better types of birth control — like pills, IUDs, or implants — rather than relying on lower-quality birth control like condoms.

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What You Study Changes Your Personality

There are stereotypes around who studies what and what those people turn out to be when they’re done their education. One example of this is that MBA students tend to be immoral upon graduation. That, and other stereotypes do have a basis in reality according to new research out of Denmark. What’s really interesting about this is that career counsellors may want to suggest fields based of a person’s personality rather than other metrics.

According to a new meta-analysis, there are significant personality differences between students in different academic majors. For the review paper, Anna Vedel, a psychologist from Aarhus University in Denmark, analyzed 12 studies examining the correlation between personality traits and college majors. Eleven of them found significant differences between majors. The review examined the so-called “Big Five” traits: neuroticism, extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness, and conscientiousness.

Vedel writes that she hopes her findings can help college counselors guide students into the best majors for their personalities. That, she thinks, might help reduce drop-out rates. At the very least, it might help certain English majors understand why they never can seem to remember to do their stats homework, even though they worry about it constantly.

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Teaching ADHD Kids Outside

Students with ADHD have a hard time focusing in a standard classroom which leads to a difficult learning environment. It doesn’t have to be this way though. In Finland outdoor schools are familiar and effective, and now in the States they are experimenting with outdoor schools. Outside Online took a good look a SOAR to see what the future of outdoor education could be in America while examining the benefits of nature-based schooling for people with attention disorders.

Olmsted, looking back on his life, identified the problem as the stifling classroom, not troublesome boys. “A boy,” he wrote, “who would not in any weather & under all ordinary circumstances, rather take a walk of ten to twelve miles some time in the course of every day than stay quietly about a house all day, must be suffering from disease or a defective education.”

The Academy at SOAR—which became accredited three years ago—is determined to find a better way. The school has just 32 students, 26 of them boys, divided into four mixed-age houses. Each kid has an individualized curriculum, and the student-teacher ratio is five to one. Tuition is a steep $49,500 per year, on par with other boarding schools, although you won’t find a Hogwartsian dining hall or stacks of leather-bound books. The school still covers the required academics, as well as basic life skills like cooking, but finds that the kids pay more attention to a history lesson while standing in the middle of a battlefield or a geology lecture while camping on a monocline.

“We started from scratch,” says SOAR’s executive director John Willson, who began working there as a camp counselor in 1991. “We’re not reinventing the wheel—we threw out the wheel.” The school’s founders didn’t have any particular allegiance to adventure sports; they just found that climbing, backpacking, and canoeing were a magic fit for these kids, at these ages, when their neurons are exploding in a million directions. “When you’re on a rock ledge,” Willson says, “there’s a sweet spot of arousal and stress that opens you up for adaptive learning. You find new ways of solving problems.”

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Children Should be Taught Philosophy

Studying philosophy has greatly influenced my life and I encourage everybody to also study the field and practice. Engaging in philosophy can improve one’s sense of self while improving their ability to discern which arguments have value.

Teaching critical inquiry through philosophy to children can have a very positive impact on them as human beings. We should have every kid engage in philosophy in their schools because kids are want to know about all aspects of what’s around them. That is what philosophy is about at its core.

Since then, training in various jobs has made me into various kinds of professional, but no training has shaped my humanity as deeply as philosophy has. No other discipline has inspired such wonder about the world, or furnished me with thinking tools so universally applicable to the puzzles that confront us as human beings.

By setting children on a path of philosophical enquiry early in life, we could offer them irreplaceable gifts: an awareness of life’s moral, aesthetic and political dimensions; the capacity to articulate thoughts clearly and evaluate them honestly; and the confidence to exercise independent judgement and self-correction. What’s more, an early introduction to philosophical dialogue would foster a greater respect for diversity and a deeper empathy for the experiences of others, as well as a crucial understanding of how to use reason to resolve disagreements.

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