As employers emphasize the importance of professional skills (critical thinking, communication, etc.) in addition to technical proficiency, some community colleges are integrating more humanities education into curriculum.
Bergen Community College in New Jersey recently received a National Endowment for the Humanities 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. A goal is to empower future law enforcement officers to work with diverse communities through humanities, literature and art.
“We are taking and offering a humanistic approach to policing,” Richard Kuiters, criminal justice department chair, said in a release. “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 criminal justice students are required to take. 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.
Data on humanities at community college
According to the Humanities Education in Community Colleges Pilot Study from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, about 2.8 million students took a humanities course for credit at a community college in the fall of 2015 (the year for which data were collected). They accounted for approximately 40 percent of all community college students taking courses for credit that term.