The humanities are in crisis, with plummeting enrollments across the country, and the timing couldn’t be worse. According to a recent article entitled “Why STEM Education—and Democracy—Need Civic Science” in American Scientist more than two-thirds of STEM graduates do not end up in a STEM career, but instead in the public or private sector, where they will need to serve as brokers for tackling the biggest challenges of our time. They will need skills beyond their narrow STEM expertise: it is the humanities that provide essential tools for problem-solving, working towards solutions for social effects of the climate crisis, gross social inequality, mass migration and violent conflicts, solutions that are ethical (aimed at the thriving of all), productive (and ecologically sustainable), and holistic and wholesome for the health and well-being of humans and their communities. Humanistic learning—the honing of historical understanding of oneself and others, of language skills, and communication and diplomatic skills—is crucial to bringing our communities and leaders together to rise to the occasion and tackle these threats to human well-being and survival.
The ultimate success goal of this project is to synthesize insights into a paper, which analyzes and assesses the impact of humanistic learning on MIT undergraduates, enriching the debate at MIT and other institutions about the value and new challenges for our humanities curricula, and supplying policy-decision bodies at MIT with valuable data to guide their decisions over how to design the best possible learning experience for graduates.