To flourish as whole persons living lives of purpose, service and fulfillment, Concordia students must understand and appreciate the diverse frameworks of language, meaning, and history that make up culture. Our mission as the Division of Humanities is to open vistas of human culture to Concordia students, engaging them in collaborative ventures of nuanced understanding, critical evaluation, and creative expression. We commit to that mission in the conviction that humanity is not bestowed on us at birth but attained across a lifetime. By engaging with our students in the study of the humanities, we work together toward the common goal of achieving humanity.
Now, as always, the humanities are the beating heart of liberal education. The humanities ask timeless questions, who we are and how we should live. The humanities serve as society’s memory, treasuring up the full range of human experience. The humanities pose critical challenges, interrogating what is in the name of what should be. The humanities delight in what is beautiful and profound. The humanities take flight on the wings of imagination, visiting fictional worlds so as to see the actual world anew. The humanities listen for the still small voice of the sacred. And, while caretaking and critiquing the legacy of human culture, the humanities creatively add to that legacy.
Against the backdrop of these perennial roles, the Humanities Faculty of Concordia College see new challenges as we educate today’s students. In a world where change is a constant, we must prepare students who are intellectually flexible, curious, and creative. In a world where cultures coexist and interact, we must prepare students who understand and appreciate the splendid diversity of humankind. In a world facing environmental and resource challenges, we must prepare students who can think profoundly about our place within the broader natural world. In a world in which isolation and heedless self-seeking are too often the norm, we must prepare students who understand deeply that humans are social and ethical beings, enmeshed in community and answerable to God and to each other. In a world of increasing ambiguity, we must prepare students who are at ease with complexity. In a world of burgeoning information, we must prepare students who can perceive broad, significant patterns while critically separating wheat from chaff. In a world so overwhelming that one is tempted to disengage, we must prepare students who can discern effective and satisfying ways of responsibly engaging that world for the good of neighbor and of self.
The Humanities Faculty of Concordia College take up these perennial tasks and new challenges by opening doors for students to three distinct but closely associated aspects of life:
-Lives of Vocation: Study of the humanities prepares Concordia students for successful and satisfying lives of active engagement with the world. As the Humanities Faculty of a Lutheran college, we identify with Luther’s rich conception of vocation as service in the family, the church, the workplace, and society. To prepare our students for lives of vocation, study of the humanities develops classic liberal arts capacities –to listen and read carefully, to speak and write articulately, to think and evaluate critically, to understand and respond empathetically. The humanities cultivate values beyond the narrowly economic and instrumental. Rather than training students for routine tasks, we educate students for vocational lives in a changing, complex world. The habits of mind honed through the humanities are highly relevant to the worlds of commerce, government, religion, and non-profit organizations in which our students will live out their professional and personal lives. We, the Humanities Faculty, commit to preparing our students for significant and satisfying lives of vocation.
-Lives of Responsible Citizenship: Study of the Humanities prepares Concordia students for lives of responsible engagement in the public sphere, the broader domain that encompasses both our personal and our professional lives. While that public sphere is filled with messages aimed at shaping our thoughts and actions, students in humanities classes learn to assess those messages critically in order to become agents in their public lives rather than passive objects of political and commercial manipulation. As never before, the public sphere is a cosmopolitan realm of plural backgrounds, faiths, and ways of life. Study of the humanities equips our students with the cultural literacy needed to understand and the moral imaginations needed to empathize with people who may seem very different from themselves. To a striking degree, today’s political discourse is harsh and polarized. We commit to modeling civil conversation, even when sharply discordant viewpoints engage. In the face of the profound changes and challenges of the public sphere, Concordia students must develop an informed and considered awareness of the fundamental principles of the ethical and political traditions that shape our lives together. We, the Humanities Faculty, take up these challenges.
-Lives as Whole Persons: The audacious project of liberal arts education is nothing less than preparing students to flourish as whole persons, leading lives of inherent worth and deep satisfaction while enriching the lives of those around them. It is the task of achieving humanity. Whole persons demonstrate a wide range of human potentials, including …
- Freedom: Whole persons have agency in their lives, knowing the difference between liberty and license;
- Wisdom: Whole persons learn what is worth knowing, having, and doing;
- Self-awareness: Whole persons live examined lives, following the Socratic admonition to “know thyself”;
- Humility: Whole persons have a proper sense of the limits of knowledge and power; they take to heart our fallibility, folly, and fallenness;
- Moral conscience: Whole persons grasp that our choices are freighted with consequence for our neighbors, our world, and ourselves
- Curiosity: Whole persons develop a lifelong love of learning rooted in deep wonder about our world and ourselves;
- Aesthetic delight: Whole persons cultivate the ability to take joy in beauty and profundity in their diverse forms;
- Quality of attention: Whole persons are alert, attentive, and awake, becoming, as Henry James puts it, people “on whom nothing is lost”;
- Connection: Whole persons appreciate the deep interconnectedness of things, understanding that seeing one thing involves seeing it in its larger context;
- Reverence: Whole persons stand in appropriate awe and respect before that which is duly worthy.
The Humanities are uniquely tasked with asking what overall human flourishing is and how it is to be achieved. Studying the humanities – faithfully remembering, critically evaluating, and creatively adding to the human cultural legacy – is integral to that lifelong task of achieving humanity. Through our scholarship, our classes, and our work with students, we, the Humanities Faculty, commit ourselves to developing these virtues of mind and character in Concordia students.