When looking at the two words “Humanities” and “humanities”, it is easy to pass them off as the same words with the same meaning. However, the subtle difference in capitalization has created a distinction between the two meanings.
Let us first consider the meaning of “Humanities”. Humanities with a capital “H”, stands for the Davidson program offered to first years. This program takes place over the course of an academic year focuses on a variety of disciplines. By focusing on a multitude of areas, such as Gender & Sexuality Studies, Religion, and Philosophy, this course differs from others offered at Davidson. Those who sign up for the program are committing themselves to being opened minded and making societal connections to the disciplines they are exposed to. Humanities forces people out of their comfort zone as it facilitates tough conversations about the world around us and how it can relate to articles and archives written by academics. This course is also taught by professors who each bring their own perspectives and ideas, which directs students to take an open approach to whatever material they are given. The Humanities program allows individuals coming from all backgrounds to not only engage with academic material, but also each other in order to become more empathic and knowledgeable thinkers.
In contrast, “humanities” can be defined as our perception of the world around us as it relates to the vast amount of disciplines. Simply put, humanities acts as an outlet to deepen your knowledge and understand society through multiple perspectives. The humanities can take place in many forms all of which work to explain the world and the human condition. Those who engage in it develop a deeper empathy for identities and lifestyles they may not be able to identify with directly. This concept is most commonly encompassed by the disciplines of History, Philosophy, Art, etc. each that have the goal of exposing the learner to new knowledge and getting them to apply it to modern events. Each of the works also come from fellow humans that each have a different viewpoint on the world and different narratives they are trying to push.
In our class, we embraced the idea of “humanities” as we had eight different units that each covered a different area of thinking. Although they each differed in the primary content, there was often overlap and connections that could be made, as all the material was made by humans who were once living or are living on this planet. Therefore, many felt the same pressures and containment. With the first unit we began with philosophy which forced us to open our minds at the beginning of the semester. Dr. Robb provided us with the definition of “conceptual schemes” which carried over into the next units. This allowed us to think about how we think about our surroundings and how that shapes our narratives about others. Moving into Dr. Fache’s unit and then Dr. Tamura’s unit about oppressed and murdered bodies, it forced the class to face the main goal of humanities– discussing challenging topics. These topics were not only challenging in their complexity, but also challenging as it forced many students to consider their own privilege and find an effort to empathize with minority voices. This general trend continued throughout the year, as the class tackled different materials and topics. However, as the semester advanced so did the meaning behind every conversation. Suddenly the conversation between classmates were not surface level, but instead they were thought-provoking and empathic with the subject at hand. A true sign that the idea of humanities was being correctly implemented into Humanities.
Although these two words many look the same and have different meanings, Humanities could not exist with humanities. Without this foundation, the Humanities program would not be as effective it is today. By implementing humanities into the program, the students that participate are able to experience a well-rounded experience that introduces them to the world in their first year. The humanities and the Humanities program act as an archive of information and materials that help to explain humans within their societies.