This week we shine the spotlight on Humanities and its importance in understanding ourselves as citizens and the society in which we live. I am honoured and humbled to lead an amazing team of educators that make up the Humanities Department at St Hilda’s. We are inspired by our students and the opportunities presented to us daily, where we are given an arena to share our passion and craft about the wonderful world that we live in.
Humanities is the study of individuals, societies and environments in a wide context: historical, contemporary, geographical, political, social, economic, religious, technological and cultural. The delivery of all disciplines has a historical and contemporary focus, from personal to global contexts, but at the same time, considers opportunities and challenges for the future.
I started my journey at St Hilda’s in 2014, commencing as Head of Department in 2016. At St Hilda’s, every student from Junior School through to Year 10 is exposed to Humanities in various forms. From Years 7-10, they study the four disciplines of Economics, Geography, History, and Politics and Law, guided by course coordinators who are experts and seasoned educators in their respective fields.
I believe that the prevailing attitude of ‘that we know it’ or ‘we have arrived’ is a dangerous one espoused by every so-called influencer and expert. In Humanities, a strong questioning and critical thinking mindset is encouraged. We certainly do not have all the answers, and no one source does, therefore all voices need to be heard, thoroughly examined and worked together.
Education is a wonderful and powerful tool, and a broad general education helps foster critical thinking and creativity. Exposure to a variety of fields produces synergy and cross-fertilisation. Humanities works to deliver an inclusive and encouraging message while espousing its importance.
Through a study of Humanities, students are introduced to the complexities associated with the changing nature of evidence and this in turn impacts the narrative that is presented from and about our society. In educating all girls, we are mindful of the fact that regardless of gender everyone needs to politely, ethically and in the right place and time, question and challenge what is being presented. Though other voices and forces might appear powerful our ‘battles’ are constant.
We work with our students to develop an increasingly sophisticated skill set and an understanding of significant events and controversial issues that have a powerful contemporary resonance that continues to challenge and shape the way we treat each other. One of the key behaviours and skills emphasised throughout the Humanities curriculum is empathy. We have survived as a species by being suspicious of things we are not familiar with; this suspicion is rooted in fear and judgment. In order to be kind, we need to shut down that animal instinct and force our brain to travel a different pathway.
When I started in 2014, the First Nations people’s flag was not flown. That flag now graces the front of the school. The Acknowledgement of Country is also a small but significant step towards building a more just, inclusive, and respectful society that values and celebrates the diversity of its people and cultures. It encourages a shared commitment to move the nation and the world to be more than a temple of thought and make significant investments in the future.
The study of Humanities is a tool for critical awakening, equipping our students with skills and perspectives that are indispensable in a rapidly changing world and a reminder of our shared humanity, contributing to personal growth, societal progress and a deeper appreciation of the human experience. What a privilege to be sharing this with our future leaders, butchers, bakers and candlestick makers!