Humanities courses need to challenge their students to know the material thoroughly and to have considered its significance deeply. In other words, they need to be more rigorous.
Harvard created its own problem. A language requirement would be a lot simpler if students were required to come into the College with a solid grasp of a language. Then, Harvard would know that whoever enrolls will only require two or four semesters, whatever language it may be, until she has not only the exposure to a language, but skill.
We have to aspire first and foremost to be good. A legacy is ultimately meaningless. We need only to focus on being as kind, grateful, and humble as we can in our own lives. Social justice does not matter without individual justice. It is easy to shout about how other people need to change and other people need to do things, but the only way we can actually effectuate change is through embodying it ourselves. Through doing good and modeling virtue for others we can start to create a more just society.
The humanities must be studied for their own sake, not as shells of what they once were, nor as stepping-stones to something “actually important.” The humanities cannot beat the sciences at their own game, and they shouldn’t try. Each discipline has fundamentally different goals. In order for the humanities to recapture importance we must relitigate the question of materialism. Studying the Humanities is fruitful apart from anything else.
History is the acknowledgment of both the past and the future, of the beginning and the end, and therefore of what is eternal. We must situate history as the basis of the humanities, as it articulates the covenant that makes it possible to ask: What does it mean to be human? In studying history we elevate humans from mere accidents in time and space to a group meaningful in and of themselves. We can only understand who we are and what we will be through knowing what we have been, because that which is essential about us does not change.
The scientification of the humanities achieved through the Ph.D. greatly harms the education of students at the College. Harvard should consider how to create teachers instead of manufacturers.