Integrating humanities education

As employers emphasize the importance of professional skills — such as critical thinking and communication — in addition to technical proficiency, some community colleges are ensuring that humanities education isn’t lost in the curriculum.

Bergen Community College in New Jersey recently received a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) grant to expand the role of the humanities in its criminal justice courses. Students in the criminal justice program will be exposed to a greater variety of narratives in text, film, art and music to enrich their critical-thinking and communication skills to prepare them for the workforce.

The goal is to empower future law enforcement officers to work with diverse communities through humanities, literature and art.

Editor’s note: This article comes from the AACC 21st-Century Center.

“We are taking and offering a humanistic approach to policing,” said Richard Kuiters, criminal justice department chair. “The community wants highly aware law enforcement who have strong communication, critical-thinking and problem-solving skills.”

To make this work, instructors from art, history, literature, philosophy and religion will collaborate with instructors from criminal justice and legal studies to design learning communities and contextualized courses that have a criminal justice theme.

Schenectady County Community College in New York is doing similar work. With a 2017 NEH grant, the college is providing a targeted approach to the humanities electives required of criminal justice students. The criminal justice program features a special course section from English composition, literature and history, each designed to include law enforcement-related themes. Students take the courses as a cohort and have a tutor assigned to support their group.

Health and allied health students at Ohio’s Columbus State Community College are required to take a humanities elective. But now they can take the two-course History of Western Medicine sequence, developed and implemented with an NEH grant. It not only gives students a foundation in the history of Western medicine, but also provides them with critical-thinking and academic-writing skills.

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