Friday, July 02, 2010

WHERE ARE THE HUMANITIES TODAY?

Educationists are facing a dire shortage of teachers of humanities subjects, leaving one wondering whether no one has actually studied in the arts stream in the recent past.
WHY?
This is not a very recent phenomenon. It started some decades ago when careers in medicine and engineering were considered the be–all of life; hence an emphasis on the sciences. Those who did not make it into medical or engineering colleges fell back on the B.Sc degree for physics and math, etc., for a teaching career; even law as a last resort.
Such was the pull of the scientific world that there was this all out campaign to drag every possible stream of studies into the Science category, with the application of so-called scientific methods of chart-making, experimentation and statistical compilations etc . Those subjects not amenable to such tactics were ridiculed, labeled ‘out of fashion’.
When the load of B.Sc graduates was found to be unemployable, at a time when the economy with surging forward with banks, financial institutions and MNCs becoming big employers, the focus shifted to the B.Com degree. Very soon, as the IT bandwagon rolled in, it was the turn of the MCAs and the MBAs, vying for space with the revered IITs and IIMs.
In all this the poor BA was relegated totally into the background, banished from many a college, even humanities from schools or contemptuously referred to as the dumping ground of the dullards and dunces. Is it any wonder that kids chose to fail repeatedly in science or commerce, rather than shift to arts?
With no takers for the streams that the humanities had to offer, there was a rapidly diminishing supply of teachers who could infuse life into the subjects which had been labeled out of circulation for non scientific associations.
But are the Arts or Humanities only such?
Is history merely a collection of kings, their battles and dates?
Is geography a collection of data on rivers and mountains, climate and crops?
Are economic theories only dry as dust matter to be rendered into a science with the infusion of stats, charts and scientific what not?
WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE ILLUSTRATION OF THE INTRINSIC LINKS BETWEEN ALL THESE SUBJECTS THAT CONSTITUTE LIBERAL STUDIES OR HUMANITIES/ARTS?
= links between geography and economics of a region and their combined impact on history
= links between sociology and history of the region and the impact on local psychologies
= physiology hygiene and the impact of the janata’s medical knowledge on medical and pharma lobbies
= the impact of all this on global studies and world views.
Why does no teacher ever dig out examples from world history and Indian history to illustrate global trends which would entice students to take humanities seriously?
Taking a local example: The geography of Kutch, with its salt pans, semi desert and the Banni grasslands make for the economics of salt making and animal husbandry, an emphasis on handicrafts to compensate for poor farming conditions, the grasslands of Banni and the money order economy from emigrants who make good elsewhere; the effects of two earthquakes on the earlier flourishing economy of that region
Alongside this the realization of the predominance of handicrafts in poor regions e.g. Kutch, Afghanistan, Andhra, Persia. The last two have changed with discovery of oil. Earlier economies revolved around the reliance of women’s crafts and animal husbandry.
Around the world, river plains of the world are often cradles of culture and advanced civilizations, especially in the socalled Old World: witness France and the Siene, Tiberius and Rome, Danube and East Europe, Iraq and the Tigris, India’s Indus, Ganga and Brahmaputra amongst others, Siagon on the Meking etc. The other side of the coin in the Americas, where the Incas flourished in mountain fastnesses . Why?
Islands provide a range of studies from Australia vs New Zealand, Mauritius, West Indies, East Indies, Canary Islands, Fiji, Hawai, UK. There are many relevant issues of history, colonialism, labor plantations and migrants, mixed bloods, subservient economies, tourism……
Africa north: the Muslim sweep through Spain right upto the south of France, reversed by colonialism, now reverse Islamic hostility and the invasion of Muslim immigrants into Europe which is causing so much heart burn.
South Africa was a European melting pot and apartheid-country and the effects of that on the sociology, economics and history of the southern half of the continent.
West Africa, despite its natural riches, or may be, because of them is a land of floundering banana republics and political hot spots.
Central Africa’s Congo and Angola also can bring home the links between geography, economics and history to students, to revive interest in the liberal arts, given its link to global economies and the present day economic climate which encompassed the world as a Global Village.

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