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Sunday, November 26, 2023

The humanities are priceless

We shouldn’t let far-right politicians strip our education system down to what corporate employers demand.

By Jim Hightower 

The far-out right-wing’s latest political ploy takes extremism to the extreme. Escalating their divisive series of “culture wars” — banning books, suppressing women’s rights, whitewashing history, demonizing teachers, etc. — their next idea is to declare war on ideas themselves.

Specifically, they’re going after state university programs that teach creative arts and social studies, including history, languages, music, civics, literature, economics, theology, and other courses in the humanities that explore ideas, foster free-thinking, and expand enlightenment.

We can’t have that, can we?

Thus, GOP lawmakers in North Carolina, for example, are eliminating funding for top humanities professors in their universities, shifting those funds to programs in high-tech and engineering that are favored by the corporate hierarchy. 

Likewise, public universities in Alaska, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Ohio, and elsewhere are being made to cancel their humanities programs and puff up their departments of business, finance, and marketing

The right wing’s shriveled view is that a university education isn’t about expanding one’s horizon and enriching America’s democratic society — but solely about training students to fit into a corporate workforce, sacrificing the possibility of a fuller life for the possibility of a fatter paycheck. 

As a Mississippi Republican official explained, under this minimalized and monetized concept of higher education, state spending on college degree programs will require that they match the needs of the economy.

What? Is America nothing but its economy? Is the value of students measured only by the size of their future paychecks? Is public spending only worthy if it serves corporate interests?

Ironically, the politicians trying to cancel teaching of the humanities are proving that such courses are essential. After all, the humanities strive to humanize today’s social order of corporate domination, exploitation, and inequality. The value of that vastly exceeds its price.

In fact, the humanities are priceless. 

OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. This op-ed was distributed by