Justifying the teaching of the humanities: A new economic approach

Tal Gilead*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


In recent years much has been written about the declining status of the humanities and the effect this has had on teaching and the curriculum. This article begins by examining some key defenses for teaching and studying the humanities that have been offered in the literature and points to their limitations. It is argued that in a policymaking environment dominated by economic thinking, the justifications for teaching the humanities that are based on identifying its intrinsic and social values are bound to have little appeal for policymakers. It is also maintained that the attempt to justify teaching the humanities based on their possible contribution to increasing production is unconvincing. The article then proposes a new defense for teaching the humanities that stems from recent developments in economic thinking and public policy-making. It is proposed that teaching the humanities can be defended on the basis of its potential contribution to altering consumption patterns and offering ways to convert wealth into happiness more effectively. The article does not suggest that the defense proposed here is the only or best way to defend the humanities, but rather that it can have an important instrumental value in persuading policymakers to invest more in teaching the humanities.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)346-359
Number of pages14
JournalPolicy Futures in Education
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Author(s) 2017.


  • Economics
  • Education
  • Humanities
  • Philosophy
  • Policy
  • Theory


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