The Instigator
Danielle
Pro (for)
Losing
17 Points
The Contender
RoyLatham
Con (against)
Winning
30 Points

Philosophy and the humanities are underrated in education.

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 12 votes the winner is...
RoyLatham
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/27/2012 Category: Education
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 25,337 times Debate No: 28659
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (62)
Votes (12)

 

Danielle

Pro

I would like to thank my esteemed opponent in advance for accepting this debate. I look forward to what I hope will be a very thought provoking and insightful discussion :)

For all intents and purposes, I believe the resolution is pretty straight-forward. By underrated, I will be arguing that increasing the focus in humanities and/or philosophy in education, particularly higher education, would be beneficial to society. I will contend that there is an increasing problematic trend in delegitimizing the pursuit of knowledge in these areas, while there is instead a particular emphasis on specializing in particular fields of expertise. Often, the value of these genres is underrated in comparison to other subject matter such as those that are technological in nature.

I again thank my opponent for accepting this challenge. I stand in firm affirmation of the resolution, and I am much looking forward to posting my opening arguments in Round 2. Best of luck!

Regards,

Danielle
RoyLatham

Con

Yo! I am here to defend the nerds.

I will argue that society would benefit from, if anything, decreasing the educational focus in humanities and philosophy.

Thank you for proposing the topic and he debate. Probably not as good as Batman v. Naruto, but I'm looking forward to it.
Debate Round No. 1
Danielle

Pro

Thanks, Roy.

Trends in schooling have made the purpose and focus of education to perform well on standardized tests, rather than foster and maximize a student's unique learning potential. Instead of teaching pupils how to reason, problem solve and be creative, teachers are now crafting curriculum based solely with the intent of increasing performance on mandated exams. This produces an unhealthy focus on excessive repetition of simple, isolated skills ("drill and kill"), and limits the teacher's ability to focus on a holistic understanding of the overall lesson [1].

Rather than push students toward increasingly narrow areas of study, a more cross-disciplinary education that dynamically combines various genres of subject matter would be more prudent to the education process. Specifically, acknowledging the benefits of an increased awareness in the fields of philosophy and the humanities would be favorable. These areas of study are currently underrated, but play a critical role in addressing the great problems of our day.

The humanities include history, philosophy, religion, the arts, anthropology, communication, cultural studies, law and linguistics among other fields. Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with reality, existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, language, science, etc. An interesting dynamic between these two categories is that philosophy teaches logistical, systematic approaches to problem solving through crafting rational arguments, while the humanities tend to focus on developing a perspective based on people's subjective human experiences. Both are paramount to the learning and educational process of figuring out this thing we call life.

I don't know of any pre-collegiate public schools that mandate introductory courses or lessons in philosophy. Similarly, those that are mandated in college like many intro level humanities courses are usually dismissed as "fluff" classes that are nothing but a waste of time. Indeed, it is sometimes counterproductive and problematic to force students who intend to use college solely as a preparatory gateway to their future professions to learn about things they've been conditioned to believe are "useless" to them. There is an inherent resentment in that. However the fact that people are usually oblivious to or disregard the importance of these subject matters indicates a culturally ingrained ignorance on just how crucial these subject matters are.

As thinking human beings, we should be questioning what kind of world we live in, what kind of world we should live in, and what kind of things we can do to reconcile the two. Instead of philosophizing on these fundamental aspects of human existence, and capitalizing on our fortunate capacity to be rational and self-aware, we are increasingly veering away from this frame of mind and instead concentrate on narrowing our expertise to specialized industries. As one moves up the ladder, values other than technical competence are viewed with increasing suspicion. "Why would you major in Philosophy...? How could you choose anything besides Engineering...?"

In most cases, acquisition of wealth (work) is the primary motivator for encouraging people to take on specialized roles in industries we find useful to our civil society. While that is indeed important, educational institutions ought to be reinforcing the notion that a deeper understanding of the humanities and philosophy-- the process of not only coming to logical conclusions, but challenging your imagination to find reasonable and improved potential solutions-- is paramount to our fundamental experience as human beings. In fact, creativity and imagination are responsible for the ideas that fuel industries that make technology valuable in the first place.

College students are forced to specialize in one subject and continually narrow their focus, learning more and more about less and less despite the reality of interconnectedness between just about every subject. Exploring links between various fields instead of adapting a systematic centralization of limited skills and data helps us expand our perspective, and thus knowledge. For example, I am horrible at math and in HS could not for the life of me grasp the concept of Cartesian planes. It wasn't until I was in college and learned about the philosopher Descartes, and got an in depth explanation as to how he came to his conclusions - rather than merely be expected to replicate a formula, which at the time was nothing but random numbers and letters to me - that I was able to understand the relevance and magnitude of his findings. It put math in a whole new light. Everyone learns differently, and that should be explored.

The world today faces a plethora of problems and challenges. Resourcefulness and imagination are key to problem solving. Developing an understanding of history through research in language, the arts (expression), religion, etc. helps us decipher the evolution of culture and humanity in general. These are not frivolous values, and educational environments in which to foster and develop these ideals is beneficial. DDO itself provides value in terms of catering to an intellectual community in which we challenge ideas about all aspects of the humanities, including politics, society, philosophy, economics and more. Imagine if our schooling experience was more like this (sans the trolls...).

Almost every debate comes down to values. How can society determine its values without an exploration of the humanities? Given all of the problems we face, we are challenged to find solutions that will make a significant and sustainable difference. When it comes to public policy, we need to have a foundation of concepts such as truth, justice, equity, etc. in order to have a firm understanding of the implications of government (power and control over the people).

Decreasing an emphasis in the humanities and philosophy is detrimental to a civil society. Artists are important when strategies of action are in the process of being designed. They reflect both personal and shared cultural experience, as well as invoke passionate engagement and reflection. They also generate interest and provide an outlet of various benefits. For example, slave hymns were not only spiritual songs of endurance and hope, but used as tools to communicate secret messages in the Underground Railroad.

Similarly, Art History class details how art was used as important tools throughout history. Learning history is important, because it allows us to observe the actual as well as the intended consequences of ideas. The ability to analyze and formulate ideas (outside of solely technical) is critical to society. Social activists, business leaders, lawyers, politicians-- they are all active, ongoing participants in advancement of the public good, and all of them rely on a firm grasp of the humanities.

Liz Coleman lectured, "Enhancing the public good becomes a primary objective. The accomplishment of civic virtue is tied to the uses of intellect and imagination at their most challenging. Our ways of approaching agency and authority turn inside out to reflect the reality that no one has the answers to the challenges facing citizens in this century, but everyone has the responsibility for trying and participating in finding them."

Political correctness and an institutionalized desire to stifle radical thinking (Damn the Man) has made it difficult to have in-depth conversations on certain matters at educational institutions. Fundamentalists have no problem using indoctrination via education systems to further their values: the absolutes of a theocracy. In our society that allegedly values democracy, we are silent. An education in the politics of principle and not partisanship ought to be explored via fostering philosophy and the humanities.


[1] http://documents.latimes.com...
RoyLatham

Con

My opening joke was so bad, someone thought my account was hacked. Sorry. Thanks to Danielle for a serious case.

I agree the humanities are important. In elementary school through high school, the humanities are vital for teaching reading, writing, and comprehension. They also are critical for teaching cultural literacy, the general body of knowledge that people need to understand how their society works. At the college level, there is value in advancing the arts my opponent cited. Focused factual knowledge is important too. We need scientists, engineers, physicians, technicians, skilled craftsmen, trained service workers, business people, and all the other applied skills needed to make society more efficient, safe, and comfortable. Our debate does not doubt the importance or either the arts or the sciences, but rather whether humanities are now underrated relative to focused skills.


Jobs demand more focused skills than the humanities provide



This is widely acknowledged. A survey of employment prospects makes the case. “All jobs aren't created equal. In fact, some are simply better than the rest. U.S. News 100 Best Jobs of 2013 are the occupations that offer a mosaic of employment opportunity, good salary, manageable work-life balance, and job security.” [1. http://tinyurl.com...] The survey ranked jobs according to an overall score. “The Overall Score is calculated from seven component measures: 10-Year Growth Volume, 10-Year Growth Percentage, Median Salary, Employment Rate, Future Job Prospects, Stress Level, and Work-Life Balance.” [2. http://tinyurl.com...]

Of the 100 best jobs, only about a dozen are in the humanities. 18 of the top 20 are not in the humanities. (Interpreter & Translator and School Psychologist are the two I put in the humanities, though it could be argued those are focused skills.) Some jobs are hard to classify. Is a telemarketer a technical job or is it in the arts? If one is generous in the assigning the categories, there might be as 16 or 18 of the 100 in the humanities.

As society becomes more advanced, machines and skilled workers do more and unskilled labor does less. “Companies all over are having a difficult time recruiting the kind of people they’re looking for,” said Robert Funk, chairman and chief executive of Express Employment Professionals, a national staffing firm based in Oklahoma City that helped some 335,000 people land jobs last year. “We currently have 18,000 open job orders we can’t fill.” ...How can so many jobs remain unfilled with unemployment so high? One explanation is that many would-be workers lack the necessary skills to fill those positions. “There is higher demand for skilled jobs and less demand for unskilled positions than we’ve seen coming out of past recessions,” [3. http://tinyurl.com...]

Two examples of skills having critical shortages are machinists [4. http://tinyurl.com...] and nursing [5. http://tinyurl.com...]


The high end of the job market comprises skills in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics [STEM]. According to a recently released study there are 3.6 unemployed workers for every job in the United States, but for STEM workers the situation is reversed. There are two unfilled STEM jobs throughout the country for every unemployed STEM worker. [6. http://tinyurl.com...]


Present and future jobs lie outside of the humanities.


Science and technology are underrated as cultivating the intellect


Pro argues that “As thinking human beings, we should be questioning what kind of world we live in, what kind of world we should live in, and what kind of things we can do to reconcile the two.” I claim that disaster in society lies in theorizing a different world without an understanding of how the world be have actually works. For example, the Soviets dreamed of a world in which there was no cost of capital, and they constructed an economic system under that pretense. In fact capital cost is a law of nature, and it cannot be ignored any more than an aircraft designer can ignore gravity based upon the designers dream of a better aircraft world.



The great ideological disasters of recent times, form Nazi fascism to Maoism, came from unconstrained attempts to construct a world the someone thought should be. Presently, a practical person would never suppose that a society could be built upon the premise that there is an infinite money, and that the problem faced by society is distributing it. That's a product of too much dreaming and not enough reality.

Who has actually changed society for the good in modern times? Scientists, engineers, and inventors have fed the world, revolutionized communication, and cured disease. Businessmen like Ford and Rockefeller have done far more to improve the lot of humanity than any philosopher. If you want to change the world, the path is now that of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, not through studying art or history. Impractical theorizing by thinkers detached from reality give us ideologically-driven disasters. Hawking's cosmlogy has advanced philosophy more than phlosophers.

Rebuttals



Forcing philosophy upon high school students would be child abuse. The few who could get something useful out of it ought to use self-study.

Pro argues that downplaying humanities leads to drilling on narrow skills rather than “holistic understanding of the whole lesson.” That relates to teaching methods rather than to humanities. For example, history can be taught on the basis of memorizing names and dates. Law is obsessed with case histories and the details of the laws on the books. The humanities change slowly so rote is possible.


Modern engineering education is oriented towards on participating in mufti-disciplined projects and broad skills like mathematical modeling. This is a consequence of the rapid pace of technology and the need to integrate multiple disciplines. Learning the details of specific devices is pointless, because the devices are so quickly outdated. Physical principles, tools, and methods are more favored over device specifics, simply because the specifics change so fast. The same is true of science as new science is added so quickly, broad principles are stressed.


I do not accept that studying the humanities improves reasoning to positive effect. “Nobel-winning economist Daniel Kahnemann argues that humans employ two different cognitive systems to evaluate new information. The first uses fast cognitive efforts such as rules of thumb while the second relies on slower, more effortful systematic reasoning. People adopt many of their cognitive rules of thumb, heuristics that are triggered by emotional reactions to new situations, from groups with whom they share cultural or ideological commitments. This theory implies that when challenged with new information or arguments, it’s just easier for most people to believe what their peers believe.” [7. http://tinyurl.com...] The context was to explain group-think among the populace, but the intellectual elite is no different. It's no accident group-think dominates. The tools of reasoning are employed to rationalize preconceptions rather than to overcome them.


If it were true that the humanities improved reasoning, then by now philosophers would have agreed on the answers to the classical problems they consider. All have the same information and all are highly skilled in applying logic, yet there is no convergence of thinking. Reasoning is mainly used to rationalize beliefs.


Confrontation with reality moves thinking. An imagined theoretical design for something can always be rationalized, but if it is built and fails, actual reasoning is the only recourse. Its true that technical people indulge intellectual fantasies outside of their area of expertise, but the difference is that failure is more likely to impress a practical person than an intellectual schooled in finding other things to blame than his theory.


The humanities are overrated as careers, and way overrated as teaching how to think.





Debate Round No. 2
Danielle

Pro

I agree with Roy: Our debate does not doubt the importance of either the arts or the sciences, but rather whether the humanities are now underrated. Keep in mind, however, that the sciences are not exclusive from the humanities to begin with. As I explained in the last round, the humanities includes fields such as anthropology - which is very scientific - and philosophy which is the crux of both mathematical and scientific theory.

While specialized roles in industries for work are of course important, educational institutions should not continue to narrow the margin of a pupil's education just to groom them for a future career. If the sole purpose of an education was preparation for work, the university as we know it would not exist, and instead everyone would just seek apprenticeships after learning how to read.

In college, students pick a major which usually acts as a starting point for a career. However a career is not the only purpose of a student, or of a person. Currently, the humanities are typically dismissed as "fluff" introductory courses that don't satisfy any utility outside of BS core requirements. Con hasn't denied the frivolous perception of the humanities despite acknowledging their importance. Just because in-demand jobs require focused skills does not in any way whatsoever prove that education in the humanities is adequate. All it proves is that focused skills are useful which I would not deny.

The U.S. needs to adopt more specialized technological skills in order to compete in a global economy. However, how should the economy be structured? How should it be governed? What should the relationship be between the two? These are questions explored by philosophy and the humanities - not technological studies - but they are questions that are profoundly important to us all.

Con suggests that science and technology are underrated as cultivating the intellect, but clearly that is not true. In fact, some people equate intelligence in relation ONLY to one's abilities in math and technology. Einstein is instinctively considered "smarter" to us than Shakespeare. When we think of a genius, we conjure up images of a mad scientist. We highly value scientific prestige, while dismissing the utility of common sense and critical thinking as it applies to notions about our livelihood.

Roy writes, "I claim that disaster in society lies in theorizing a different world without an understanding of how the world we have actually works." I posit that a better understanding of the humanities is what teaches us about how the world actually works. A comprehensive understanding of history, politics, law, foreign policy, economics, culture, communication, etc.-- Knowing about how these things came about and currently exist in a holistic framework will allow us to be more realistic and understanding about the world we live in, and how to potentially make it better. While it's convenient for my opponent to cite examples of people using misguided reasoning to try to change the world (eg. fascism and Maoism), that is manipulative as I could easily provide examples in which ideas attained through studying philosophy and the humanities made the world an arguably better place: the Enlightenment, the Renaissance, even the American Revolution.

Philosophy teaches us the process of coming to logical conclusions and finding solutions. Creativity and imagination are responsible for the ideas that fuel industries that make technology valuable in the first place. Of what use is an architect, scientist or engineer if they lack imagination? How can people be innovative without creative albeit practical inspiration? Of course science and technology cultivate the intellect, but they are fueled by ideas fostered through exploring the humanities.

Roy claims that "Forcing philosophy upon high school students would be child abuse." Why couldn't this same standard apply to Chemistry? Not everyone has an aptitude for science. Unlike people who pursue chemistry as a career, people in every occupation or non-occupation will theoretically have a say in the laws that govern our lives. If people were excessively educated in technological fields without any capacity to reason through concepts such as truth, morality, justice, equity, etc., then how are they responsible or competent enough to have a vote that is equal to mine in the laws that dictate my life?

Con argues that since philosophers do not all agree, understanding philosophical concepts must not have value. Of course, not all scientists agree either, and unanimous agreement is not necessary to prove utility. By understanding philosophy, you are able to better make up your mind up about what to think from a position in which you are more fully conscious of the alternatives, and rationalize strengths and weaknesses of arguments in topics ranging from ethics to mathematics. This gives you a kind of freedom to decide for yourself what to think, and this freedom isn't enjoyed by everyone.

I'm sure my opponent agrees that his beliefs are superior to those who disagree with him-- in fact, the debate we are having now is philosophical in nature. If people aren't able to craft or dissect an argument, they are susceptible to believing anything they are told which is detrimental to a free society. Con himself acknowledges that reality: he says that when challenged with new information or arguments, it"s just easier for most people to believe what their peers believe. Philosophy specifically discourages this type of rationalization, and in fact notes it as fallacious in appealing to the majority.

The study of philosophy develops many skills, including critical thinking despite Roy's assertion to the contrary. It allows us to identify the problem or goal, explore a potential resolution, and reflect on its utility. The ties between studying philosophy and improving critical thinking have been documented [1], and are useful to Philosophy majors post-graduation [2]. Moreover, a recent issue of a journal published by the American Medical School Association indicates that a very high proportion of philosophy majors applying to medical schools have been accepted [3]. Con ignores the reality of philosophy and many aspects of the humanities being intertwined with the sciences. He ignored my argument that a better understanding of the humanities can actually foster an appreciation of the sciences.

In conclusion, just because the job market does not have a high demand for careers in the humanities does not prove that the humanities are not underrated. This is an irrelevant contention. The jobs that ARE focused on the humanities are extremely important despite not being highly in demand in our current global economy. I've provided some examples in the last round of important professions based on the humanities: politicians, lawyers, teachers, judges, activists, business leaders, psychologists, etc. More importantly, the people impacted by these individuals ought to have an understanding of what these people are fighting for.

Roy mentions the obvious value of Bill Gates, but the most important people of the 20th Century cited by TIME magazine contain mostly people focused on the humanities: Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa, Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, etc. Of course many philosophers are responsible for shaping Roy's own values to boot.

In the last round, I pointed out that every debate comes down to values. Society can not determine its values without a firm grasp of the humanities. Technological competence is secondary to first understanding one's values (realized through understanding the humanities) and thus goals.

[1] http://www.hss.cmu.edu...
[2] http://www.statepress.com...
[3] http://www.amsa.org...
RoyLatham

Con


Science, technology, and practical skills are underrated


Society is producing too few people with practical skills to meet the needs of the modern world. The advances that have fed the world, conquered disease, and made the world a better place have come from technology, yet society has not adequately recognized the importance by promoting the needed beneficial skills. Pro seems to grant that type of overrating of the humanities, but to discount it as unimportant.


I claim that having a continuing prosperous society is the most important consideration in deciding what is overrated. Societies struggling for existence cannot afford to support the arts or philosophy or anything beyond survival. As recently as 50 years ago, massive famines plagued the world. Science, technology, and practical skills have provided the means for feeding the world. Now famines occur only because people dream of authoritarian economic societies that not only starve the populace, but prevent aid from the rest of the world.


The Humanities are overrated


Pro argues that the humanities are underrated because “In fact, some people equate intelligence in relation ONLY to one's abilities in math and technology.” Some people, yes, but not the intellectual elite of our society. Pro provides the counter evidence by later arguing “the most important people of the 20th Century cited by TIME magazine contain mostly people focused on the humanities: Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa, Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, etc.”


Time's recognition of the humanities in strong preference to the sciences, technology, and business, roughly 80-20. Time appointed distinguished panel to nominate the most important people of the 20the Century, and none of the top twenty were in science, technology, or business. http://www.amiannoying.com... The top five were Hitler, Oprah, Mao, Sinatra, and Ho Chi Minh. The two greatest 20the Century advancements in physics where Einstein's discovery of relativity and Neils Bohrs' discovery of quantum mechanics. Bohr didn't make the list, while Bart Simpson did.


The Time panel was a fair reflection of a society that has valued the arts way above the sciences for many decades. A whole category of important people is devoted to the entertainers, part of the humanities, while all of science and technology is dumped into a category of equal size.


Time editors stepped in and deemed Einstein the most important person the Century, even though the panel had him way below Oprah. That is a result of the Einstein mystique, not shared by any other scientist. Few people understand what Einstein did, even though they know it was important. Pro speculates that Einstein is more widely recognized as a genius than Shakespeare. I doubt that, because Shakespeare is a world-renowned figure. For example, Shakespeare is widely taught in Mexican grade and high schools. [http://www.worldshakespearefestival.org.uk...] and we suspect Einstein is not.


Values do not come from the humanities


Pro contends that usually debates comes down to values and that values come from the humanities. Many debates are purely factual, like whether vegetarians live longer, whether 0.9999_ = 1.0, or whether radiometric dating is accurate. Factual debates are important because facts describe what is true in the world. Factual debates also can come to definitive conclusions.


I do not agree that values come from the humanities. That's like claiming that bird behavior comes from ornithologists. Values ultimately derive from the nature of mankind, expressed in societies. Humanities then study those values. We do not protect children because philosophers derived the value from base principles, we do it because that is our nature. It is important to study values, because societies have different ways of resolving the instinctual values associated with self, family, and society. But values are mainly played out without philosophers.


Facts ought to determine debates that affect the world. Suppose we all value helping the poor. We then must decide if redistribution of wealth helps the poor more than free market capitalism. That's a fact issue that can be determined by observation. What advanced reasoning ability does is allow beliefs to be elaborately rationalized, so that they can be maintained in the fact of reality. North Korea expresses all the important values of economic socialism: redistribution of wealth, decisions made by a government elite, economic equality in society, no rich elite exploiting workers, and trade barriers keeping out competition. But why doesn't t stand as a valid example of socialism? It takes mastery of logical skills to make the example go away.


The Humanities do not deliver as promised


Pro points out that in addition to the bad examples of structuring society in ways that do not work, good ideas for structuring society also come from dreaming about what is possible. That there are so many bad outcomes means that the ideas do not converge, despite the claimed rational expertise that comes with philosophical thinking. Were philosophers really responsible for ending the ages of European rule by kings? It is more likely that the main force was natural social evolution. Kings are impractical when society is mobile and depends upon trade.


Pro asks, “Of what use is an architect, scientist or engineer if they lack imagination?” Are we supposed to believe that imagination comes mainly from the humanities? That's nonsense. String field theory postulates an eleven dimensional universe wherein time can start and stop and matter is created spontaneously. That didn't come from the humanities. It came from trying to write equations that accurately describe reality. There are six million patents, each certified as describing an innovative solution to a practical problem. they were inspired by the need to solve problems, not by the humanities.


Pro asks why chemistry ought to be valued above philosophy in high school. The reason is that high school students first need to prepare to make a living and to contribute to making a prosperous society. That doesn't require chemistry for everyone, but certainly employable skills over unemployable ones, and skills useful in navigating life over those that do not. Values are important, but philosophy does not teach values or how to derive them. If it did, philosophers would share the same values, and they do not. Philosophy provides the tools for rationalizing values acquired elsewhere.


Pro argues that philosophy provides the tools that enable independent thinking. It provides the tools, but the remarkable lack of convergence proves the tools are mainly used for rationalization, not independent derivation. Try to think of some important problem in society that cannot be philosophically rationalized. All manner of crimes and mass idiocy have been justified. Current philosophical thought justifies human rights beginning at conception and also justifies killing infants up to age two. Take your choice, and there are arguments to support your case.


By contrast, science converges. Newton's laws, the laws of thermodynamics, and the theory of relativity are done deals. Controversies rage, but they are ultimately resolved. That should not be underrated.


Philosophy majors can go on to be good medical students, and that's because they are smart people. I don't question that the humanities and science are intertwined. Modern physics has a profound impact upon philosophy. Abiogenesis and evolution study of the origins and development of life. Operationalism says that physical concepts like time, space, and energy are solely defined by how they are measured.


The humanities are overrated because they do not fully deliver on what they promise. Skills for dealing with the real world are underrated because they deliver more than people acknowledge.


Debate Round No. 3
Danielle

Pro

Re: Science, technology, and practical skills are underrated.

- Again, this does not prove that the humanities are also not underrated.

- Con says society is producing too few people with "practical skills" and I agree. In HS, I didn't learn how to do my taxes, balance a check book, vote, assess the various political parties or system outside of introductory rhetoric, how to write a resume or interview for a job, nothing whatsoever about banking or investing, nothing about the stock market, how to navigate college loans, or any other basic life skills... but I memorized the Pythagorean Theorem.

I will probably never use the P.T. for the rest of my life, but I will of course need to know how to do all of the above. These practical skills that are relevant and essential to our lives all fall within the context of the humanities: philosophy, political science, law and especially economics. Con suggests that our country is "struggling for existence" and I imagine he is referring to our current economic crisis. Said crisis is the result of both political and economic failures by a large faction of Americans. People have been largely ignorant and thus detrimental with their votes and personal fiscal irresponsibility in a way that has affected us all.

- Roy writes "Societies struggling for existence cannot afford to support the arts or philosophy or anything beyond survival." Con is misleading the audience to think that this debate is about obtaining more funding for the humanities, which is a manipulative interpretation of the resolution. This debate isn't about the specificities of resource allocation, but acknowledging a lack of emphasis or importance placed on teaching certain skills.

Re: The humanities are overrated.

- Just because TIME recognizes the importance of the humanities in acknowledging its champions, does not mean that society associates the featured people or skills with intellect. It's no secret that American culture values entertainment and the arts, but just because a famous musician has been deemed a more popular icon by a magazine has nothing to do with how the humanities are fostered in education. I used this point of reference to show that the humanities have a large impact on the world through its influence and reach. I didn't at all undermine the value and utility of science. I also didn't deny that scientists are obscure to the average citizen. Being ignorant to the accomplishments of brilliant scientific minds doesn't prove that the humanities are taught sufficiently.

Re: Values do not come from the humanities.

- Con says "many debates are purely factual." Likewise many debates such as this one come down to values. There is no objectively right answer, but I am trying to persuade the audience that a higher value SHOULD be placed on the humanities. A scientific observation would merely describe how much value we DO place on the humanities. Science teaches us how to measure and describe facts about reality - not resolve the superiority of subjective preferences. Of course the latter is important. Subjective preferences dictate our lives: moral values, cultural norms, political governance, etc.

- Roy writes, "Philosophy does not teach values or how to derive them." I explained how philosophy helps develop critical thinking skills which allow us to determine, analyze and critique our perceived values through empirical observation and analysis. Without this skill, we couldn't weigh values that help us determine important things like laws. This is critical because values aren't objective facts we learn but are instead developed.

Re: The humanities do not deliver as promised.

- Philosophers form questions that guide their curiosity toward comprehension of problem solving. As such, yes philosophizing in general - not necessarily professional "philosophers" - are responsible for societal and cultural advancements throughout history.

- Innovation is not only through the humanities, obviously, but these fields tend to foster or require creativity and imagination in particular. These traits are imperative to problem solving.

- Roy says HS students first need to prepare to work and learn employable skills that are useful for "navigating life." I contend that those skills in particular are fostered in the humanities, while learning technological skills only teaches you that: technological skills, not life skills.

- Con posits that science is more useful than philosophy because there's no convergence. Nonsense - science is riddled with controversies [1]. In fact the philosophy of science is concerned with the assumptions, foundations, methods, implications and use/ merit of science [2]. Some use contemporary results in science to reach conclusions about life. For example, you can't talk about the propensity of free will without discussing quantum physics. This is relevant because whether or not free will exists does or perhaps should have implications on things like our criminal justice system. In many cases, philosophy and science are not only interrelated but indistinguishable. Neither discipline is perfect, but fallibility does not extinguish utility.

- Yes, philosophy majors are "smart people" because their intellect is cultivated through processes of rationalization, logic and reason -- all important tools both in science and life (personally and professionally).

FACTS

- The National Center for Education Statistics found that ~22 percent of Americans demonstrated the lowest level of skills, performing simple, routine tasks involving brief and uncomplicated texts and documents. Others were unable to perform even these simple tasks, and some had such limited skills they were unable to respond to much of the survey. 25-28% demonstrated skills in the next higher level of proficiency, though their ability to grasp complex information was still quite limited. They were only able to make low-level inferences using printed materials, and to integrate easily identifiable pieces of information. Only 1 in 5 Americans are truly literate enough to read and understand the nuances of things like political journalism. 51% of Americans can't really synthesize information and digest it [4].

- Democracy can't function without an educated populace that understands its role in civic life. Civics are taught in less than a third of American public schools, but they have a big impact according to a Harvard University study. It notes "Students who complete a year of coursework in American Government/Civics are 3-6 percentage points more likely to vote... Further, this result suggests that civic education compensates for a relative lack of political socialization at home, and thereby enhances participatory equality" [5].

It is important for everyone to be more politically aware, because their vote impacts policies that affect EVERYONE. Of course since politics references philosophical and economic concepts, this proves fostering education in the humanities is essential.

CONCLUSION

I agree that most people don't understand the magnitude of Einstein's work. However, it is not important that most people do. What IS important for most people to learn are what is taught in the humanities. These "practical skills" are paramount to our lives. Law, government, communication, economics, banking, ethics and even art play a pivotal role in society, so it is important for us to understand them and their implications. Con has not denied this, but instead denies that these areas are underrated in education. In order for that to be true, Con would have had to prove that our education system adequately prepares students to understand these concepts - NOT merely argue that a more comprehensive understanding of science and technology would be useful, which I would never deny. Observing American ignorance both in terms of studies and in practice proves that students absolutely do not have an adequate grasp of understanding concepts of the humanities.

SOURCES: http://tinyurl.com...
RoyLatham

Con


Thanks to Pro for a fine debate!


The Burden of Proof


Despite Pro's explanations, I still cannot imagine why anyone thinks the society would benefit from more lawyers, philosophers, and literary critics and fewer scientists, inventors, and entrepreneurs. The theory is that at the high level abstract thinkers, being relatively unconstrained by reality, can envision more novel and exciting solutions to the problems of society than those who are burdened by the constraints of reality. I believe that being constrained by reality leads to a better society.


Pro defined the resolution. She said, “By underrated, I will be arguing that increasing the focus in humanities and/or philosophy in education, particularly higher education, would be beneficial to society.” “Focus” means emphasis. That means we ought to put more effort into the humanities, because, according to the resolution, those people are now more beneficial to society than doctors, scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs. Resources of time and money are finite, so we cannot focus more on producing lawyers without focusing less on producing something else.


There are other meanings to “underrated.” For example, there is the absolute sense in which one might claim “carrots are underrated as a nutritious food.” That is is the sense in which “underrated” means “not fully appreciated.” In defining “underrated” for our debate, Pro excluded that meaning, but often seemed to be to be arguing it.


Pro claims, “Con would have had to prove that our education system adequately prepares students to understand these concepts [Law, government, communication, economics, banking, ethics and even art] - NOT merely argue that a more comprehensive understanding of science and technology would be useful ...” No. Pro has the burden of proof, and must prove (a) deemphasizing practical skills in favor of humanities would both improve understanding of the concepts, and (b) any improved understanding would benefit society more than the skills lost. Pro offered no data to support those claims, and only assumes they are true.


For example, Pro argues that learning how to do taxes is probably more important to the average high school student that Pythagoras. That is not a safe assumption. “In a national sample, only 26 percent of low-income students who did not take geometry went to college; but 71 percent of low-income students who took geometry went to college.” http://www2.ed.gov... The value of learning geometry is understanding the application of step-by-step logic to arrive at a proof. That's a skill that humanities aspires to teach, but which geometry better teaches.


I wouldn't classify “doing taxes” as part of the humanities. Doing taxes is entirely a practical skill. Study of the philosophy and justice of taxation does not make a person more adept at figuring out tax forms. It is accounting in everyday life, one of the practical business skills that Pro argues have too much of our attention. Some students are not suited to taking geometry or chemistry. Nonetheless, focus on practical skills will be better for those students than on further study of the arts. I'm not advocating solely teaching practical skills, we are arguing emphasis at the margins.


Unyielding reality best develops the intellect


In higher education, my argument favoring science, technology, medicine, business, and other practical skills is that they deal with unyielding reality. The humanities more easily yield to sophisticated rationalization. No political theory is ever put to rest, and few philosophical arguments are ever resolved. If we look at the professions where solid conclusions are reached and real progress is made, we are looking at science and technology and not the humanities.


My opponent points to a list of controversies in science. Yes, if there were no unresolved issues, science would be complete. My point is that science and technology has a long list of resolved issues, while the humanities permits rationalizing many bad ideas forever. What political systems have been disposed of as fully as bad scientific theories? Physics tested the existence of the ether and disproved it. Relativity was proved. But advocates of almost every form of government endure, despite history.


Pro did not point to a list of firm conclusions in the humanities.


Even in philosophy, more concrete progress has come from studying the sciences than working philosophy on it's own. Questions of origins, evolution, determinism, the nature of time, and of cause and effect have been dramatically advanced by science. Not all of philosophy is advanced by science, but shifting educational focus to science is more likely to advance philosophy than to shift focus away from science.


Deficiencies and benefits to society


I pointed out the enormous beneficial impact on society from science, technology, and business. That is what has fed the world, cured disease, and given us the comforts of the modern world. Technology is the hope of the Third World, not the arts. I think Pro's response amounts to, “Oh sure, now let's talk about something else.” In fact, it's the dominant benefit by far.


Pro cites statistics that our present graduates are incompetent at reasoning, and argues that shows we need more study of the humanities because that is how reasoning is learned.


Pro argues, “I contend that those [life] skills in particular are fostered in the humanities, while learning technological skills only teaches you that: technological skills, not life skills.” So the model to learn life skills is to study art history, become unemployed, and spend a decade living in your parent's basement? What we ordinarily consider to be the humanities: history, literature, law, and art are not close to “life skills.” Practical skills provide the basis for being independent, for interacting with others, and for getting satisfaction from positive contributions to society.


I argued that studying science leads to more philosophical insights that studying philosophy in the abstract. Pro said that philosophy and science are intertwined. I agree. That was my argument for approaching the study of philosophy from the scientific side.


Pro gives statistics showing that Americans are, overall, deficient in reading comprehension. Pro takes that as proof that emphasis should shift away from science and technology and towards the humanities. But it's not plausible that students of science, engineering, medicine have characteristically inferior reading comprehension. Check out a text like Magnetohydrodynamics.


A comprehensive study placed the blame for lack of comprehension on a loss of academic rigor in universities, “35 percent of students reported studying five hours per week or less, and 50 percent said they didn't have a single course that required 20 pages of writing in their previous semester.” Why the loss of rigor? “the principal evaluation of faculty performance comes from student evaluations at the end of the semester. … There's a huge incentive set up in the system [for] asking students very little, grading them easily, entertaining them, and your course evaluations will be high...” http://www.npr.org...


Science, technology, and medicine demand more rigor.


Pro claims that a course in civics motivates 3-6% more young people to vote. That's some benefit to society, but having young people employed is a greater benefit both to themselves and society. Pro never disputed practical skills being more employable.


Summary


I have defended the nerds. Pro and other proponents of the humanities take it as an unquestioned assumption that focusing on the arts produces people that most benefit society. Pro has the burden to prove that, and did not.


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I take exception to Pro's linking an external list of references. It's a pain, and it violates the site rule on character limits.






Debate Round No. 4
62 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by CloudApex 2 years ago
CloudApex
Good debate.
Posted by thigner 4 years ago
thigner
Hm.. let's see. it's obvious even we reform our educational system to reinforce abstract, meaningful education like philosophy and anthropology and etc. Let's see time used for pragmatic courses. Frankly, how many hours are used for philosophy. I guess less than 4 hours a week. 5 hours times 5 days (Mon-Friday)

It's just 4 over 25. it's like 16% at all. even we increase time to 6. it's 24% of all.

shifting focus... which change 16 to 24. is it tough change enough to be called revolution of education or shifting of education at all?

of course it's too hypothetical I agree. Just wanted to say that unrated one's reassessment and time change can make some other study's rapid shifting as not important one. but also, it can be not.
Posted by RoyLatham 4 years ago
RoyLatham
@thigner, Pro defined the resolution as a question of "focus." Focus means putting more attention on something, implicitly at the expense of things not the subject of the focus. Moreover, there are few issues of that wouldn't benefit from more attention. Supposing that the resolution means that we should do more of everything saps the resolution of meaning. In the debate, I gave the example of arguing "carrots are underrated" as the kind of abstract notion that makes no sense as a debate topic. No, it's about shifting focus.
Posted by thigner 4 years ago
thigner
Hm.. to con. Is it saying that philosophy and humanity are underrated means other pragmatic studies like engineering must be shortened? They are not two sides of coins. They are quite reciprocal ones I think.
you keep arguing that pragmatic ones are important significant. You need some reasons they are enough on this education system. you don't have burden of proof but you need reasons why you think that.

Pro. your entire arguments are too obscure. not enough authenticating proofs.
To make people understand your thought, I think you need more and more data on this subject I think.

However, all too good and very intelligent versus game. fun. thanx
Posted by DudeWithoutTheE 4 years ago
DudeWithoutTheE
Well it's done now, Danielle, and I am genuinely curious. "Loads of my points were dropped" seems to be a very common refrain from losing debaters - wrichcirw and Mouthwash have both made this exact same line of argument when whining about losing to you lately. It is simply not possible for a Con debater to offer a negation to every single statement Pro makes and also make the required substantive case for the negation of the resolution, as I'd sure you'd agree. Therefore, for me it's a question of whether anything you said that stood proved 'Underrated,' and conversely, whether Roy's material proved that the humanities are correctly or over-rated. It seemed obvious to me that the latter is more true.
Posted by Danielle 4 years ago
Danielle
@ Roy, using external links for sources is not rare for regular debaters. I can find a dozen examples in 5 minutes.

@ Dude, Why should I go back to the debate and check? Are you going to change your vote? Probably not; it seems like a waste of time where people would just accuse me of arguing in the comments section. If you're genuinely curious, I'll be happy to go back.

"He gave concrete examples of how underemphasis on STEM subjects is directly harmful to America."

I pointed out in the debate that an underemphasis on STEM subjects doesn't mean there is not an underemphasis on the humanities that is also directly harmful to America.
Posted by wolfman4711 4 years ago
wolfman4711
Man atheist
Posted by DudeWithoutTheE 4 years ago
DudeWithoutTheE
"If 50 arguments are made as to why the earth is flat, it's really only necessary to prove the earth is round,even if most of the arguments are dropped."

So this. Danielle, can you give examples of what you believe was dropped? Note that also, an argument being dropped doesn't matter nearly as much if it being true doesn't prove what needs to be proven in order to win. For instance, Roy did not counter your point about the benefits of Art History - he did not need to, because his burden in this debate is not to prove that there are no benefits of the Humanities at all. He gave concrete examples of how underemphasis on STEM subjects is directly harmful to America.

I have a hard time seeing how any impartial judge could call this for Pro.
Posted by RoyLatham 4 years ago
RoyLatham
@RyuuKyozo, I identified the assertion as "I think" tech types are happier. In a debate, the debaters opinion doesn't count for much, especially when it's identified as pure opinion. In the debate, there was an underlying thought that either one could achieve enlightenment and happiness by studying the humanities, or become a miserable narrow-minded moneygrubber by studying science and technology. I had to counter that premise, and do so without taking must space. The "I think" device is a way to simply highlight the issue. The objective is to make readers consider the opposing premise. I don't suppose anyone is going to be convince by the assertion alone.
Posted by RoyLatham 4 years ago
RoyLatham
@Daniele, The practice of posting external references is actually rare, and I always ding it when I see it. It extends the character count. The reason why it ought to be avoided is that it adds to the work of tracking down a reference, which is more annoying to the readers than the debaters. In our debate, you had some numbering errors in an external list, a common problem.

Debates ought to be self-contained. I have long favored removing the characters in links from the character count for the debate, but that hasn't happened.

In academic debates, dropped arguments are a big deal. I suppose that makes sense in order to teach the practice of responding to everything. In DDO and real life, people sort out what they think is important and what is unimportant, and count what they think is important. If 50 arguments are made as to why the earth is flat, it's really only necessary to prove the earth is round,even if most of the arguments are dropped. So it's a matter of judgment as to how to use the limited character count.

Of course you always believe you've won. I always believe I've won.
12 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Vote Placed by Trinitrotoluene 4 years ago
Trinitrotoluene
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Reasons for voting decision: I read the debate and will provide my reasoning in the comments when I have the opportunity.
Vote Placed by DudeWithoutTheE 4 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: The question here is 'relative to what?' I don't buy Pro's response to Con's point about science being underrated saying 'Well maybe both are underrated.' There is finite curriculum time, increased emphasis on one area necessarily detracts from others. Roy showed that society is short of science graduates, and argued the point about cultivation of the intellect to a tie at worst. His material about humanities education not providing the skills required by the economy was convincing. "Society is producing too few people with practical skills to meet the needs of the modern world." This to me is the key issue in the debate. Pro's argument about requiring an informed populace for a proper functioning democracy had the potential to win this debate for her, but came too late, and was underdeveloped. This needed to come earlier and have more time spent on it. Overall, Roy brought more concrete benefits and harms favoring his side of the debate, and therefore wins on arguments.
Vote Placed by DeFool 4 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: The horrifying stupidity for which Americans are rightfully condemned worldwide is defended by Con as a benefit to our civilization. By fulfilling Godwin's Law, Con wastes needed character space with insulting hyperbole - and secures an "Argument" win for Pro. S&G also to Pro, for fewer errors, as well as a clear and easy to read case. The irony of resisting higher-level thinking skills being taught in schools...with arguments that mention "mufti-disciplined projects" is almost overwhelming to me.
Vote Placed by Raisor 4 years ago
Raisor
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Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comments
Vote Placed by wrichcirw 4 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: see comment - TIE (categories for point spread irrelevant)
Vote Placed by Jarhyn 4 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: In all respects, PRO did a bad job of defending the humanities. CON provided many arguments against it, which while not particularly convincing, were still better than the ones PRO put forward. It would have been a simple matter to simply note that truly right ethics come from a study of the humanities.
Vote Placed by DoctorDeku 4 years ago
DoctorDeku
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Reasons for voting decision: This was an awesome debate, and I am very grateful to have read it. My vote goes to Con on the principle that science gives students tools to solve problems while philosophy allows students to create elaborate ideological explanations. I also agree with Con that those who would benefit the most from philosophy will pursue it on their out without the aid of educational facilities. S/G go to pro as con's phrasing was difficult to follow at times. Sources go to con for making them more readily accessible.
Vote Placed by One_Winged_Rook 4 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro seemed to not argue so much for it's role in education, but the value of the humanities in general. Con rightfully conceded that the humanities are important, just not as important in the realm of organized education. Con successfully argued that the hard sciences are more useful when it comes to organized education. Also, Einstein, as Con points out in the comments, was just as much a philosopher as he was a scientist (Tesla said the same about him). On that note, Pro used the Time argument in support of her argument at first, then turns around and discards Time's selections as unimportant.
Vote Placed by dylancatlow 4 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Wow! Both sides presented a very reasonable argument. I'm hard-pressed to find any category in which one party did better than the other. "In a national sample, only 26 percent of low-income students who did not take geometry went to college; but 71 percent of low-income students who took geometry went to college." The above does not prove cause and effect. Look at what happens when we make it more concrete: "People who say they want to commit suicide commit suicide 20 times more often than those who don't, therefore, people who say they want to commit suicide, regardless if they actually do, will commit suicide more often." I realize this syllogism does not completely reflect the scenario argued, but it does show how information can be misconstrued. For now, I will give Pro the most convincing arguments but if you can change my mind I'd be happy to hear what you have to say.
Vote Placed by tmar19652 4 years ago
tmar19652
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Reasons for voting decision: I feel that con made arguments that were much more realistic for today's world. The humanities are great subject to study, but they will not solve economic woes or world hunger. Also, the posting of sources in another debate was in my opinion, cheating, so I gave sources to con.