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This content was published: October 7, 2017. Phone numbers, email addresses, and other information may have changed.

What contributes to college success?

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In this classic episode of the Rationally Speaking podcast from the New York City Skeptics, Massimo Pigliucci and Julia Galef debate the value of the humanities, looking at both the pragmatic values and those that are less tangible.

Massimo argues that the importance of the humanities can’t be quantified. He notes that there are a lot of intangibles in humanities education and it is impossible to measure something like opening peoples’ minds, but that doesn’t mean there is no value in that endeavor.

The podcast episode includes a discussion about the value of story telling and thought experiments that are an integral part of humanities education. As part of the debate, Pigliucci articulates the benefits of indirect learning through reading fiction, watching a play or looking at a work of art.

Finally, Massimo and Julia discuss the research published in Academically Adrift in which Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa published their findings on the quality of American higher education from a 2011 study. Massimo explains that their study showed that only two factors were predictive of sustained knowledge and measurable skill growth. According to Arum and Roksa’s study, reading and writing intensive courses were the only courses that contributed to student success and sustained knowledge.

Listen to the entire podcast episode here: Why Should We Care About Teaching the Humanities?

Read a summary of the study published in Academically Adrift in Inside Higher Ed.