A Humanist’s Manifesto: Words From BC’s Historical Society

Students in the History Lounge, 1115 Boylan Hall./Micah Sander

By Student Members of the Brooklyn College Historical Society 


   The Brooklyn College Historical Society is the student club of the college’s history department. 


   To be a humanist is to question everything, to study everything, to search for meaning, to experience as much as possible, to try and fail and try again, to dare to be spectacular, to recognize one’s limits, to forge bonds with others, to feel everything, and to defend one’s humanity with all your might. Brooklyn College has become hostile to humanists. 

   College should be a place where interests are nurtured and supported, but it has been taken over by a larger societal checklist culture. We are told to go to school to get a degree, to get a job, to get money, to retire, to die comfortably. We check off these boxes and always worry about how we’re going to check off the next one, without ever questioning if there’s any other way to exist, or if the world will even be stable enough to reach the next goal.

   We ask: Will I be able to afford a house? Will I be able to retire? Will my degree actually get me a job I want? Will I have healthcare? Will I have rights? Will I have clean water, food, and air? None of these are certainties. Change is the only certainty. 

   Being encouraged to follow the rigid path of careerism in a society that feels like it might not be there tomorrow should piss you off. With such an uncertain future for all of us, stability will no longer come from specialization.

   College is the place to develop your beliefs about how the world should be and create a path that’s right for you. There are hurdles to this end: parents’ pressure, money concerns, caring for family, the time commitment.

   A proper college environment should respect our humanity and care about making us the most well-rounded people possible. It shouldn’t want us to become apathetic commodities that have to brand ourselves through resumes, cover letters, and recorded interviews that might not even be seen by another person. Bots will reject us because we didn’t use the right buzzwords or fonts on the piece of paper that is supposed to sum up our whole lives to prove our usefulness to the system

   It’s not all CUNY’s fault. Our society doesn’t care about education. The school is responding naturally to a hollow capitalist culture, offloading the confusion and fear onto us. We are anxious and isolated making LinkedIn profiles, just trying to play the game and get by. Brooklyn College should be investing in education rather than a golden checklist of a degree promised in four years or less. This will produce free-thinking, intelligent, and brave individuals ready to shape their surroundings instead of blindly conforming to them. 

   Don’t listen to those that have given up hope on a better world. A humanities degree, a science degree, a performing arts degree, any degree that engages your curiosity fully will get you a job. If you choose a path that fascinates you, you will be educated. Your value to any job will grow exponentially because you are a fully realized person rather than a faceless resume. 

   As education goes, so goes the world. If our primary, secondary, and higher education is not funded properly, then we become a less kind, connected, and exciting world. If we do not study the disciplines that stimulate us, we lose them, and everything just gets more dull. We become like the single-function bots that scan our resumes. Colleges and governments that neglect education are failing as institutions, so terrified in the short-term that they doom themselves in the long-term.

   Humans are not tailored to perform one task like a machine is. We adapt, learn, grow, and change. Study everything that interests you and let your education shape the skills that you take everywhere. Do not put a skill-set for a job before a skill-set for yourself. Enriching your mind and soul will bring you more satisfaction than any vague idea of a high-paying job ever could. College is not just a stepping stone to the beginning of life, it is one of the most valuable times to realize yourself and your community.

   Perform a revolutionary act. Be a humanist, and proudly reclaim your humanity from a society that wants to beat it out of you.


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