Hispanics, Hopes, and the Humanities

Apr 2020
10-minute read

Hispanic students face reluctance as they pursue their academic goals, and there is a general misconception that the humanities lack usefulness to society and to our communities, but nothing can be further from the truth. Generally speaking, Hispanic students may face concern and opposition from their families as they pursue their academic goals once they reveal that they will be pursuing a career path in the humanities.

There are other factors that contribute to the sometimes negative perception of the humanities as a field of study. Students and their parents face the notion, or more accurately, the myth, that humanities graduates are underemployed and/or unhappy in their jobs. This stereotype  affects how others view this field and has a dramatic impact on demand. The Academy of Arts and Sciences released a study based on the United States Census in conjunction with data from Gallup polling from workers across the nation, and the results debunked this misinterpretation, showing that “Humanities graduates are as satisfied as those who have majored in STEM” (Jaschick). This was a fascinating finding and one that could aid greatly in providing awareness of the value of the humanities.

Another factor, supply and demand, is also of concern to humanities degree seekers and their families. As the fields of technology and science attract more prospects, the humanities show a steady increase especially for minority groups such as the Hispanic student population. Surely, the sciences allow us to develop our technologies and advance in our scientific endeavors, but could we ever imagine a world without the literary works of Shakespeare?

Education is key. If parents and the public in general were more informed and aware of these statistics, the acceptance of studies in the humanities could dramatically change and in return, humanities graduation rates would increase, especially in the Hispanic community. The humanities teach, foster, and prepare students to succeed in areas such as critical thinking and communication, which matter greatly in the workplace. They also cultivate students in the areas of intellectual, emotional, and social skills, as well as great literature and art history. Industries seek and value these kinds of skills that specialize in the handling of relationships in the workplace, which make graduates in the humanities a valuable asset to any company. The defenders of the humanities in higher education argue, with reason, that an education needs to be about more than just jobs and monetary compensation. The goal is to prepare students “to navigate their world” and “be compassionate citizens” (Little). To serve their communities as successful leaders and to add greater value to human life and culture.

Despite the at-times dire-looking future for the study of the humanities in the Hispanic community, there is also much hope. According to Humanities Indicators, a Project for the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, “in 2015, Hispanics were the best-represented among minority bachelor’s degree recipients in the humanities, earning 12.2% of all degrees completed in the field." These statistics reflect that Hispanics became the best-represented minority group not only in the field, but also in most disciplines, except engineering and the natural sciences. This is a very encouraging statistic considering that the project tracks this information dating back to 1995. The change in interest is significant showing to have increased from 12.8% in 1995 to 22% in 2015. The study also reflected the percentages in distribution in advanced degrees where “the share of humanities doctorates awarded to Hispanics (6.5%) was larger than in all other fields, but education and behavioral and social science” (Humanities Indicators).

We can observe this positive outcome in our very own demographics here at El Paso Community College, a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HIS), where the humanities is by far the field that holds most the popular majors (Data USA). This could be due to our distinctive  demographics since, at this institution, Hispanics are not a minority group. Yet, the difference in number of degrees awarded is  huge. According to Datausa.io the EPCC generated 1,523 humanities-related graduates in the year 2017 as opposed to 121 graduates in the nursing field. Again, this shows a significant inclination towards the humanities and all that they have to offer. This can be very surprising news to an outsider like myself, who is looking in with a much different perspective.

LilHernandezImg2
Students at El Paso Community College.

As a nursing major, my career path has been traced with courses geared towards the sciences. Nonetheless, I have to admit that taking courses in history, linguistics, anthropology, just to name a few, has had an enormous influence in my view of people and of life. These courses have added much more meaning and a better understanding to both simple and complex topics than otherwise I ever would have. At this deeper personal level, I consider the study of the humanities as the study of the soul of academia. Without disciplines such as literature, poetry, art history, music history, world history, philosophy, and languages and linguistics, our world of knowledge and discovery would be dull and lacking in meaning, beauty, and imagination.

Again, parents express reluctance and skepticism at the thought of their sons and daughters declaring a major in the humanities, but we also know about the misconceptions that have been created which give the humanities a less-than-fair reputation, and we can see the approach from prospective companies looking to hiring humanities graduates and the never-ending need to supply this demand. The data do not lie, and the numbers support the importance that the humanities play in our everyday lives. The humanities matter and are of tremendous impact in our societies. Even the numbers of Hispanic students pursuing studies in the humanities is on the increase and holding on to a strong wave that surpasses the public opinion. Humanities graduates have jobs and are content in their jobs and hold positions of leadership, and Hispanic students are gravitating towards the humanities more and more. This is not only a sign of hope but is commendable and certainly worthy of support.

Written by Lily Hernandez, Undergraduate Research Assistant
El Paso Community College, The Humanities Collaborative at EPCC-UTEP

(All images courtesy Lily Hernandez.)

References

Humanities Indicators, A Project of the American Academy of Arts and Science.  “Racial/Ethnic Distribution of Advanced Degrees in the Humanities." American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Updated August 2017.
https://www.humanitiesindicators.org/content/indicatordoc.aspx?i=38
https://www.humanitiesindicators.org/content/indicatordoc.aspx?i=46

Jaschick, Scott. "Shocker: Humanities Grads Gainfully Employed and Happy." Inside Higher Ed., 7 February 2018,
https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2018/02/07/study-finds-humanities-majors-land-jobs-and-are-happy-them

Little, Daniel. “Why Humanities," Huffington Post, 12 October 2012,
https://www.huffpost.com/entry/why-humanities_b_1770876

Proimos, Alex. Associates Colleges, “El Paso Community College." Data USA, 2016-2017,
https://datausa.io/profile/university/el-paso-community-college https://datausa.io/about/datasets

           



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