Don’t Turn Away From the Art of Life

Thursday, February 25, 2016
The New York Times

In the New York Times, Brown University literature professor Arnold Weinstein meditates on the impact of our data-driven culture on the Humanities. As one of a pair of identical twins, he writes, "I began life with a blurrier, more fluid sense of my contours than most other folks."

That personal intuition is of a piece with my career as a professor of literature, since I am convinced that great works of art tell us about shape-shifting, about both the world and ourselves as more mobile, more misperceived, more dimensional beings, than science or our senses would have us believe.

Enthusiasm for the Humanities, though, is much diminished in today’s educational institutions. Our data-driven culture bears much of the blame: The arts can no longer compete with the prestige and financial payoffs promised by studying the STEM fields — a curriculum integrating science, technology, engineering and mathematics. These are all worthy disciplines that offer precise information on practically everything. But, often and inadvertently, they distort our perceptions; they even shortchange us.

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