March 27, 2016 at 8:24 AM

Humanities and the Arts

March 27, 2016 at 8:24 AM

A recent New York Times article (February 23, 2016) comments on the decline in the study of the humanities at universities. It's true. When I ask kids lately, "What are you studying at university?" they always reply, "Business" or "Technology."

Yet the arts flourish. I've been at opera, Tafelmusik, art lectures, and World Literacy readings lately. Each time the auditorium space was packed with people of all ages. I think we could agree that everyone turns to the humanities for inspiration, satisfaction, entertainment, and solace.

So why are young people studying business and technology? They need what the NYTimes article calls "the financial payoffs." They have university debts to settle, rents to meet, and, later in life, children to raise and educate.

The Writers' Union of Canada (whose members suffered a major copyright blow recently) says that the average yearly salary of a full-time writer is under $14,000. I imagine it's more or less the same for many painters, actors, violinists, and singers. The only reason I can devote my life to writing and editing now is that I have a teacher's pension.

I get angry when I think about the pittance people in the humanities receive in return for the joy they provide. How can the world we live in get things so wrong?

— Ann Birch, author of The Secret Life of Roberta Greaves (fall 2016)


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