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The twenty-first century has thus far put a premium on practicality. There has been a governmental push towards the STEM fields, a concern over the value of a college degree, a judgment of those students pursuing education in the Humanities. In context, this is hardly surprising. The last thirteen years have been years of drastic change and challenge. The push to practicality is understandable.
However, the imagining of a Humanities degree as impractical is a misunderstanding of the purpose of Humanities. The core skills taught are critical analysis, research and writing. There is no professional field I know of where those skills aren’t valued. A person versed in the Humanities is an individual prepared to interact with their world in a significant and critical way, professionally and personally.
As a law student at UC Berkeley School of Law, my undergraduate training in the Humanities has been invaluable. From a practical standpoint, humanities majors tend to perform better in law school, an experience that is dominated by research, writing, and critical analysis. Humanities majors are better prepared to handle exams that are almost exclusively essays. Humanities majors are undaunted by a 1200 page textbook and their backs have been trained by Norton Anthologies to haul around thirty-five pounds with them on a daily basis.
As law students, we are not only asked to learn what the law is, but to consider what the law should be. We are asked to consider philosophy, race and gender theory, technology, ethics, biology, and political science. We are expected to think creatively and critically; an expectation made achievable by a Humanities background. There is an acknowledgment that as the next generation of practitioners, we not only have a responsibility to our future clients to be competent attorneys, but a responsibility to our profession to be scholars, advocates, and at times, philosophers.
I believe I would not have been as successful a law school applicant without my Humanities training. So many essays. So, so many essays. And I would not be as successful a law student either. I could not engage as critically with the law without the Humanities training I received, without the lens a Humanities education provided.
More broadly, a Humanities education has made me a more accepting, open, and socially responsible person. And if we are discussing the practical value of a college education, if we are looking for tangible benefits, those qualities are among the most valuable I have obtained.
- Kassandra Maldonado, JD Candidate 2015, UC Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law