The Importance of the Humanities for African-American Students

Writing in The Chronicle Review in the Opinion & Ideas section of The Chronicle of Higher Education, Marybeth Gasman — an associate professor in the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania — reflects on cuts to the undergraduate curriculum being considered at Howard University, one of the U.S.’s historically black universities. Gasman pleads:

Many colleges and universities across the country, including black colleges, are focusing efforts and emphasis on the STEM majors (science, technology, engineering, and math). This emphasis is important but should not be at the expense of the humanities. It is vital that students, African-American students in particular, be exposed to and encouraged to pursue degrees in the humanities. The United States needs African-American thinkers like those that Howard has produced in the past—thinkers like Alain Locke, Toni Morrison, E. Franklin Frazier, and Carter G. Woodson.

Yes, historically white institutions can graduate African-American thinkers, but the unique history and perspective of Howard University is fundamental to the future of an African-American viewpoint in the fields that most influence public discourse. Instead of closing down important humanities programs, Howard ought to reach out to high schools and help the next generation of college students understand the role of humanities in the larger world. (Read her full statement)

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