Human Development

Arantza de Areilza. Dean. Humanities. IE Business School

30 June 2015

Written on March 25, 2015

Humanitarian disciplines enable a major step toward learning to develop critical reasoning skills, stretching the imagination, gaining a better understanding of the world that surrounds us, and enjoying the inner critical spirit that tells us to dare to think.

A few days ago I re-read  William Golding’s famous novel, “The Lord of the Flies,”  remembering some of the ideas that led me to propose an idea that would later become the first humanities program run by a business school.

Golding’s novel tells the story of a group of youngsters who, following a plane crash, find themselves isolated on a desert island where they are forced to create rules to live by.  The book describes the conflict between the impulse toward civilization and the will to gain power, between the group and the individual.

The triumph of justice and freedom has been a permanent feature throughout the history of humanity. Man has gradually conquered slices of freedom won from different forms of intolerance and injustice according to the different eras.  Today, valuable beliefs like moral equality of men, equal opportunities, or equality before justice are globally accepted and shared. Nevertheless, many of these ideas and beliefs that explain our world and permitted us to come this far, are not very evident in 21st century teachings. Have we forgotten our own historical legacy? Are humanities not disciplines that contain the historical, philosophical, and artistic, aspects of the legacy of mankind? In other words, are they not all things related to civilization? 

Polish philosopher Zigmunt Bauman tells us how over the last forty years the world order and our notion of it has been changing from being comprised of “solid” institutions and people, characteristics of modernity, to being composed of increasingly “liquid” players, more characteristic of present times, whereby guidelines, configurations of how to act, and our understanding of the world and ourselves are no longer so specific. In this ephemeral world of uncertainty and accelerated change, lacking in great conversations and ideologies that make up the different spheres of our lives, mankind has fewer codes and behavioral norms to guide them.  The way I see it is that what contemporary human beings need now, more than ever before, is to know who and what were the great ideas behind the civilizations and cultures that comprise the globalized planet, and to understand and develop their own thoughts to guide them in their choices, protect them from herd instinct, and preserve their freedom

Humanist knowledge helps us to understand our peers and the diversity of their cultural expressions, which often explain decisions taken in fields beyond private lives, like politics, economy or business, in one sense or another. Learning to look at others is the first step to getting on well with the world. Humanitarian disciplines enable a major step toward learning to develop critical reasoning skills, stretching the imagination, gaining a better understanding of the world that surrounds us, and enjoying the inner critical spirit that tells us to dare to think.

Mankind should not lose hope of making sense in the world. That’s why education should go beyond fostering technical skills and learning centered around work, to shape citizens that want to recuperate public space and dialogue, and their democratic rights. Free-thinking citizens, people situated in the present and aware of the resources available to alter it and improve it.  A person who knows nothing about the world in which they live is incapable of controlling not just the circumstances in which they act, but their own future. Getting to know the world through its history, its cultures, its languages and its artistic expressions will free us from the fear of accelerated change currently taking place, and will enable us to prioritize freedom over permanence, so that, as stated by Sartre, said freedom permits mankind to create their own essence. 

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