What Montclair State University philosophy and religion major Justin Garcia describes in an interview as the humanities' "rich tapestry" was on display recently in all of its color and variety at the Institute for the Humanities' annual "Classics Day," which this year provided the setting for NJ Arts News' filming of their first of six "Humanities Hits."
These short segments featuring the life of the humanities on six different New Jersey university campuses (a project funded in part by a grant from the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, and produced in partnership with Drew University) will focus on questions such as "What are the humanities?" "Why are they important?" and "How do they relate to a robust democracy?"
They will eventually be incorporated as two-minute segments in a "family humanities" TV show being developed for public television by the NJ Arts News team, directed by Susan Haig. The program provides a fresh view of the diversity and relevance of the humanities and arts and of their connection with citizenship and environmental stewardship, and delves into some unexpected corners of New Jersey—from a neglected park to a glass-blowing hot shop—to demonstrate it.
For the filming of Montclair State's "Humanities Hit" what more appropriate as backdrop than the Institute for the Humanities' annual "Classics Day," in which the focus on Greco-Roman language and culture served as a reminder of the humanities' ancient origins? The Institute has hosted a Classics Day for students studying Latin in New Jersey high schools every year since Victoria Larson, director of the Institute and professor in the Department of Classics and General Humanities, organized the first one back in 1989, with attendance regularly averaging every year since in the several hundreds.
This year as usual, after a morning of presentations on a wide variety of topics, students participated as groups of six representing their schools in a 30-minute 99-question contest on Latin Grammar, Roman Civilization and Classical Mythology. A first, second, and third prize was awarded for the schools achieving the three highest aggregate scores, with this year's winners being Ridgewood High School, Ridgewood (first); Ridge High School, Basking Ridge (second); and Delbarton, Morristown (third).
In the context of this excitement and in the vicinity of Montlclair State's own classically-inspired Amphitheater, Larson and fellow-Montlclair State professors Cynthia Eller and David Benfield of the Department of Philosophy and Religion, along with humanities majors Stephanie Garcia (French) and Justin Garcia (Philosophy and Religion), meditate in this piece on what the humanities have to offer us all and why they are worth studying. Through them, David Benfield reflects, we learn to be "capable of dealing with uncertainty and ambiguity, which is actually preparation for real decision making, the real world," and Cynthia Eller enthuses that through the humanities "you can be a citizen not just of the world but of all of human history, knowing that you are a part of this human story that started a hundred thousand years ago!"
Montclair State's "Humanities Hit" may be viewed at njartsnews.org.