The dangers of ignoring the humanities: What happens when students don't choose them in high school

Students listening to a teacher

It's no secret that the humanities are in trouble. According to a recent ABC article, students are increasingly choosing not to study them in high school. There has been a 20 per cent decrease in students choosing humanities subjects since 2012. This trend appears to continue, as young people claim that they are being discouraged from pursuing these subject areas at school.


But what happens when students don't study the humanities in their senior years? The answer is: we lose out as a society. 


The humanities teach us about ourselves and our world; they help us understand the past and plan for the future. Without them, we become ignorant of the very things that make us who we are. 


Let's take a look at some of the dangers of ignoring these important subjects.

Lack of perspective

One of the dangers of ignoring the humanities is that we lose out on important historical perspective. The humanities help us understand where we came from and how we got to where we are today.


They give us a sense of continuity and identity, something that's especially important in our increasingly globalized world. With a better understanding of history, we can make more informed decisions about our present and future.


For example, understanding the origins of the First World War can help us prevent future conflicts. Or learning about the Holocaust can help us create a more tolerant world. But if we don't study the humanities, we risk repeating the mistakes of the past.


Subjects such as Ancient History and Geography are important for this reason: they teach us about other cultures and ways of life that are unfamiliar to us.


This is essential for building empathy and understanding in our increasingly connected world. Without the humanities, we risk becoming parochial and insular, cut off from the rest of the world.

Lack of critical thinking skills

Another danger of ignoring the humanities is that we lose out on important critical thinking skills.


The humanities teach us how to question the world around us and think for ourselves. They help us see things from different perspectives and make informed decisions.


Without critical thinking skills, we're more likely to blindly accept what we're told without question. We're less likely to be able to identify fake news or propaganda. And we're more likely to make choices that aren't in our best interests.


Philosophy and Reason and senior Histories are crucial for developing these skills. They challenge us to think beyond the everyday and question received wisdom. They help us develop the ability to see both sides of an argument and make informed decisions.

Lack of empathy

An ignorance of the humanities often means is that we become less empathetic people. The humanities teach us about other cultures and ways of life, helping us to see the world through another person's eyes.


This empathy is crucial in our personal relationships as well as in our dealings with others on a global scale. Without it, we risk becoming self-centered and insensitive to the needs of others.


Studying Legal Studies at high school, for instance, can help us develop empathy for different points of view and learn to resolve conflict peacefully. Or learning about different religions can help us respect the beliefs of others.

Understanding current events

Without the study of the humanities, become less able to understand current events. The humanities give us the critical thinking skills we need to make sense of the complex world around us. Without them, we're at a disadvantage when it comes to understanding the issues that shape our world.


The recent invasion of Ukraine is a case in point. Without a basic understanding of history, it's difficult to make sense of what's happening and why.


But with a better understanding of the past, we can see the patterns that are playing out today and make more informed decisions about the future.


Subjects such as Modern History and Economics can help us understand the issues that are affecting our world today and make more informed decisions about the future.

Less informed citizens

Also, ignoring the humanities can lead to less informed citizens. The humanities provide us with the tools we need to participate in our democracy.


They help us make informed decisions about the issues that affect our lives. Without a strong foundation in the humanities, we risk becoming disengaged and apathetic citizens.


Young people are typically politically disengaged, primarily because they do not have a good understanding of how government works or the issues that affect their lives.


A basic understanding of civics and history can help engage young people in the political process and make them more informed citizens.

How do we encourage students to choose humanities?

The study of the humanities is essential for developing well-rounded, informed citizens. But how do we encourage students to choose them?


One way is to make sure that the humanities are part of the core curriculum at high school. This will ensure that all students have exposure to them and can see their value.


Getting school administration and the decision-makers in education departments on board with this idea is crucial.  However, this is not easy.


Another way to encourage students to study the humanities is to make them more engaging and relevant. This can be done by incorporating real-world examples into lessons and using technology to bring the humanities to life.


For instance, using augmented reality in history class can help students visualize key events and better understand


We can also promote the importance of the humanities to students, parents, and society at large. We can highlight how they help us develop important skills and understand the world around us.


This can be done by allowing passionate teachers of these subjects to present their topic at subject selection events and promoting it through a school's social media channels.


Finally, we can make sure that the humanities are taught in an engaging and relevant way. To do this, it is important to allow a school's most experienced and enthusiastic humanities educators in front of as many students as possible.


When students see how the humanities can be applied to their lives, they're more likely to be interested in them. 


The humanities are essential to our society. They give us perspective, critical thinking skills, empathy, and understanding. Without them, we risk becoming ignorant, self-centered, and insensitive to the needs of others.


We ignore them at our peril.

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Comments: 2
  • #1

    Wendy Frost (Saturday, 28 May 2022 21:18)

    Well said! The tendency to downplay the importance of the humanities or to cancel them entirely terrifies me, both as a humanities teacher but more importantly as a citizen!

  • #2

    Crawford (Sunday, 29 May 2022 13:29)

    Great article Ill get my teenage daughter to read it