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Universities succeed when they produce thoughtful leaders, not technocrats – Gareth Jones

Posted in Reflections On Science on August 17th, 2016.

The place of humanities in a university raises issues that extend far beyond a single department, argues Emeritus Professor Gareth Jones in the Otago Daily Times.

Otago UniversityAn excerpt (read in full):

We need lawyers who understand biomedical science or elements of commerce; we need doctors who have an appreciation of the medical humanities, let alone of English literature or Maori worldviews.

The examples are endless but each one in its own way points away from any silo mentality and towards the notion that universities should be producing well-rounded, thoughtful and well-educated graduates.

That is, people who think about the society and world in which they live and who are in a position to contribute to that society. If universities are not producing the leaders of the future, they are failing miserably, no matter how well they are educating technocrats.

This is where the humanities enter the picture, since they are integral to enlarging people’s horizons and forcing them to think critically.

This does not mean that all students have to take one or more humanities papers, although that may be a good thing. What it does point to, from my perspective as a scientist, is that there should be some input of humanities-type material into papers and programmes outside the humanities (including the sciences and health sciences).

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