Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Oh the Humanities

Newly elected Board of Education member Dr. Chao Wu made no secret of his support for STEM education during the election campaign.  (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math.)  Yesterday Dr. Wu unwittingly became a prime example of why Humanities education is so important when he chose to share an anonymous post which essentially justified segregation in Howard County Schools.

It has since been taken down and replaced with this. Here is the original. 

I should add that this post is a response to the information in this blog post by Dr. Richard Kohn, entitled “How Did Howard County Schools Become the Most Segregated in Maryland?”

What Dr. Wu shared with his readers is essentially a piece that attempts to justify segregation. It provoked concern, anger, and a deep sense of hurt from members of the Howard County Schools community. Only after the damage had been done did Dr. Wu retract the post and state that he had only been trying to start a discussion on the topic.

Well, he did start a discussion. Let’s have it.

Let’s talk about why Humanities education is crucial. From an article by Curt Rice in 2014 come some reasons why:

  1. 1. The humanities help us understand others through their languages, histories and cultures.
  2. 2. They foster social justice and equality.
  3. 3. And they reveal how people have tried to make moral, spiritual and intellectual sense of the world.
  4. 4.  The humanities teach empathy.
  5. 5..They teach us to deal critically and logically with subjective, complex, imperfect information.
  6. 6..And they teach us to weigh evidence skeptically and consider more than one side of every question.
  7. 7.  Humanities students build skills in writing and critical reading.
  8. 8. The humanities encourage us to think creatively. They teach us to reason about being human and to ask questions about our world.
  9. 9. The humanities develop informed and critical citizens. Without the humanities, democracy could not flourish.
So, looking at this list, let’s see where Dr. Wu went wrong. When Dr.Wu published his piece he did so without paying attention to any of this:
  • He published the author’s work anonymously so they wouldn’t have to bear responsibility. 
  • He published information that conflicts with HCPSS policy 6010 without acknowledging that.
  • He did not perform the due diligence of checking their “facts” to see if they held up. 
  • He didn’t make his intent in sharing it completely clear.
  • He showed absolutely no awareness of how such a post would negatively impact the community and actively damage hcpss relationships with people of color.
Dr. Wu is a member of the Howard County Board of Education. I think it is fair to expect him to interact with the community in a way that shows empathy, weighs evidence skeptically, and helps develop informed and critical citizens. He didn’t do that.

While STEM education is a valuable course of study it shouldn’t be seen as more practical and, therefore, more valuable than the Humanities. A quick look at what happened here proves how wrong- headed that would be. 

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