Humanities, For Sake Of Humanity

Inside Higher Education:

Nugent [Georgia Nugent, president of Kenyon College] argued that the American public has become too easily persuaded by numbers — even when those data are biased, flawed or wrong. Invoking Albert Einstein’s famous dictum — that everything that can be counted does not necessarily count, and that everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted — she said the public has started to rely too much on quantitative methods. “Some stories cannot be told by numbers,” she said, citing health and education as two areas in which data offer what she called “the illusion of control.”

The alternative, she and other speakers said Tuesday, is a world view that is shaped, at least equally, by the study of the humanities. Such a world view would be mindful of the risk of reaching easy conclusions and placing too much faith in fallible human knowledge, they said. While the precise definition of humanities disciplines varied according to speaker, all the presenters tended to refer to the arts, literature, language, history, philosophy, religion and some types of anthropology (in other words, those areas distinct from the physical and natural sciences, and the social sciences).

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