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Carleton University’s Bachelor of Humanities is Canada’s premier program in the Great Books.
Students in successful humanities classes learn not only to examine in detail the workings of a novel, painting, piece of music or film, but also to step back and frame that work in its cultural context and ask how it intersects with our own. The student body’s current view of the humanities isn’t the only force contributing to uneasiness within the halls of academe.
Liberal arts education is still buffeted by the winds of the economic crash that focused the attention of students and their parents ever more firmly on what might help one to land a job after college.
For students with little or no prior knowledge, classes in the humanities offer the chance not merely to encounter but rather to live with texts, ideas and works of art.
Close reading, creative reflection, cogent response, spoken and written: these are skills the humanities foster and our students need, even if they do not recognize it yet.
We are bucking a zeitgeist that makes speed of the essence, makes focusing on one thing at a time seem lazy, and doing only one task for an extended period feel like wasting time.
Students are eager to get to the "bottom line" and then go on to the next thing.
My experience of more than 40 years in the humanities classroom tells me that many of even today’s brightest students are less prepared and willing than students a generation ago to wrestle with material that does not yield easy or immediate answers.
It sounds like the widespread complaint about shortened attention spans, but I think something else is going on as well.
The recipient of the second prize is Jia Jun Liu for the essay “Does Truth Matter?
” Congratulations to our winners, and thank you to all participants.