It is argued that students of engineering will become humanistic, rational, creative and critical if they are taught art and literature.

An engineering college campus in Kerala’s capital recently witnessed a tragic incident in which a student lost her life. But it has opened a discussion on the campus culture. One may wonder why highly educated people behave like uncivilised people.

In a grass-root level analysis we can see that these young people have been taught only about technology and how to use it to amass wealth by exploiting both natural and human resources. Globalisation and its Neo-liberal values might have influenced our campuses. They are under the impression that life is meant for only celebrations and entertainment, and it is foolishness to waste time for social-cultural-humanitarian issues. Even students who were interested in learning subjects such as language and literature were mercilessly pushed into entrance ‘Concentration Camps’! This also causes dehumanising of young pupils and the campus in which they learn and live.

They complete their professional courses blissfully neglecting art and literature and culminating in mere accumulation of facts and so called technical knowledge. William Shakespeare, the man who envisioned a global platform long before the birth of globalisation, has undoubtedly stated: “Fear him who does not learn Arts.” It has long been proved that learning of art and literature helps to develop one’s emotional intelligence and also fosters humaneness.

A senior MIT professor (he who introduced humanities courses in engineering as earlier as 1980’s) once remarked, “We produce only technically skilled barbarians and not emotionally fit human beings.” This reminds us of a famous classic in which the mechanical-monster at last destroys its creator itself. So far we have not invented any software that enriches the qualities of our heart. There is no other way except to teach our professional students humanities and arts to help them to exercise more compassion while dealing with this heterogeneous world.

Professional colleges are now shunning the study of humanities because they are under the erroneous notion that these are useless subjects in this digital age. But we forgot the truth that it was not the scientists and technologists but poets and philosophers who corrected the society whenever there were excesses of exploitation, injustice or inhumanity.

Come back to the idea that the humanities and arts are no more obscure but it is all time relevant. In today’s world of technological chaos wherein the market is flooded with ever new smart phones and tablets, we need to learn more literature, recite more poems, ponder over more novels, relish more theatre and evermore love music to safely sustain ourselves in this “digital jungle”.

First of all, it is high time we re-introduced an ‘Arts and Humanities’ syllabi at the undergraduate level in the engineering courses. The inclusion of exemplary extracts from world literature in a technical university’s curriculum is now a time-honoured international practice in many European and Asian countries. This serves two purposes – exposure to classical pieces of literature makes students more humanistic, rational, creative and critical. It also equips them with higher values, be it a healthy respect for democracy, secularism or human rights. Hence, a complete science and technology education should also be complemented by an understanding in the liberal arts.

This might sensitise students to the ethical and humane issues involved in social change, apart from giving the technical course an interdisciplinary flavour. It is not mere learning communication skills or spoken English alone. Needless to say, it’s also necessary to match with the curriculum of the arts and science colleges, where the young students are being taught the aesthetic appreciation of life and literature. Indeed, these poetic and prose appreciation are an eye-opener for students which they will value as a life-long lesson.