Leaders say turn away from humanities will harm critical thinking

November 19, 2021

New Dean of Arts and Humanities at UC Berkeley, Sara GuyerAt the recent Times Higher Education Teaching Excellence Summit, UC Berkeley Dean of Arts + Humanities Sara Guyer spoke in a session on "The value of critical thinking in a post-pandemic world." Guyer spoke to the importance of critical thinking as a core value at Berkeley, "especially in the College of Letters & Science."

"Every student is expected to take a course in rhetoric and composition. One of the key aspects of that course is critical thinking" and teaching students - across different disciplines - "how to question what they are reading," said Guyer, who is also president of the international Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes. 

Guyer continued, “The more that universities turn away from valuing the humanities and seeing a humanities education as integral to what universities are about, the more we risk losing those capacities."

“When we bring students together in conversation about a concept, about a text, about a work of art, about a piece of music; and we teach students and give students the opportunity to think historically, to think critically…and make arguments about those positions, we are presenting them with a set of skills that will transfer far beyond their experience of a single text.

I think the thing universities can most enthusiastically do is continue to ensure their students – whatever their area of interest – have access to a great humanities education. They might be engineers, they might be studying biology, they might be studying business; but to ensure that the humanities remain part of all of those courses seems to me to be the key contribution universities can make to critical thinking right now.”

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Times Higher Education