Literature classes seem like a waste of time for all but English majors and really don’t pertain very well to any other majors. Does this mean they are useless?
Certainly not. Literature classes are not useless. They have specific, quantitative values like promoting critical reading skills, analysis of authorship, consideration of audience, and promote a better, more rounded education. They open our minds to other perspectives and allow an open forum of discussion of important social issues that would otherwise not come up in say, thermodynamics.
Every single semester, whether I’m teaching Composition or Literature, I have to deal with questions like:
- What is the point to all this?
- How is this going to help me?
- Why does this even matter?
There is an unfortunate sentiment toward education now; if it doesn’t get you a job, and make money for you, it’s useless.
The world reminds me of this daily. Despite the fact that the arts are integral in producing all that television, film, and social media that the greater percentage of the world loves so much, degrees in the Humanities and Arts are seen as frivolous and useless, and are often a punchline.
Even on shows like The Big Bang Theory, in which “quintessential nerds” love and find value in comic books, the Humanities are constantly the butt of jokes. It’s hypocritical, frankly; comic books and science fiction movies are, in no uncertain terms, literature produced by artists. You can’t belittle the people who create and study them one moment, and love their work the next.
To my students, I say that you can choose not to pay attention. You can choose not to care about anything that isn’t going to serve you fiscally. You can complain, berate, and belittle people who spend their lives producing, promoting, and teaching the Arts and Humanities. Know this, though. You will be:
- Less educated. Literature sometimes, often, actually, holds more relevant information that “factual” history books.
- Less informed. Writers and artists have long been feared by the world’s most powerful people for their ability to reveal the truth.
- Less able to think critically. Math will help you with numbers for the rest of your life, and will help you think logically. Literature and the Arts will help you think about life, and decide for yourself just what the hell it all means.
- More narrow-minded. Closing yourself to the Arts and Humanities is like putting blinders on. You miss a large percentage of what has happened, and is happening out there, and you certainly won’t comprehend it.
- Less empathetic. The news doesn’t reveal what’s below the surface. Love, hate, happiness, and pain are revealed when people express it, and most of them express it in ways that are inherently artistic and literary.
- Hypocritical. If you enjoy watching television, film, or almost anything online, but still complain that Literature and Art are useless, you’ve completely missed a major point; one does not exist without the other.
So, instead of “surviving” a literature class, try enjoying it, and sucking up all the value it has to offer.