One of our faculty recently reported the following: "A former student came up to me in a Springfield restaurant. He now holds a position of significant responsibility in a Missouri county Sheriff's office. He commented that in his college experience, the most useful class for him was our course in Eastern religions. Learning to understand people's perspectives, as shaped by diverse religious frameworks - the central goal of many of our religion courses - turned out to be the most practical knowledge he had gained in college: he uses this knowledge and understanding on a daily basis to deal more effectively with people."
Over the years, numerous students who pursue careers outside religion and philosophy confirm for us that in addition to courses in their majors and minors - courses in philosophy and religion often provide understanding and insights essential to them in their careers.
This is not simply the Drury experience: according to a recent article in The New York Times, philosophy majors do better in the job market than most other majors in the arts and sciences: "Apparently people in the real world think philosophy majors are well trained. They are trained to think, to analyze. They express themselves well. They write." (The New York Times, Dec. 26, 1997, Business Section, D1, 4)
Philosophy and religion courses benefit all majors and minors, e.g., Education, Natural Science, Business & Economics, Medicine & Health Care, and Law. These benefits include students' developing and refining their skills in
Philosophy and religion majors/minors prepare students for specific vocations but the courses are arenas for asking and responding to essential human questions. Many vocations and disciplines are increasingly recognizing the importance of study in philosophy and religion as essential and integral:
PHIL 377 (History and Philosophy of Science) meets a state requirement for science teachers seeking certification.
More generally, philosophy is being introduced in our high schools. Prospective teachers who have a philosophy and/or religion minor as part of their undergraduate career will be prepared to apply for these teaching positions - and/or to assume teaching assignments in these fields as they become available.
Mike Criger (philosophy major - class of '97) went on to complete a Masters in Education at Drury while interning in the Gifted Education Program, where he offered class units on logic and critical thinking skills.
Bre Stauffer is majoring both in Philosophy and Education and interning at Phelps Center for the Gifted, where she assists a class in critical thinking skills as applied to debate and politics.
We anticipate that additional internship possibilities will become available for Drury students in philosophy and education.
Over the next few years, our science faculty will help revise and incorporate the course PHIL 377 (History and Philosophy of Science) as a requirement for all science majors. This reflects their recognition of the importance of philosophical reflection and an historical understanding of the natural sciences.
Business and Economics
Business schools - including the Breech School of Business Administration - increasingly stress the importance of critical thinking, specifically in the area of ethics.
John Martella (Finance major) is finding his philosophy major to play a central role in landing his first job in business, because of its value in helping us understand diverse perspectives.
Medicine and health care
Advanced study in health care - including medical schools and physicians' residency programs - increasingly stress the importance of both ethical understanding and a more holistic approach to medicine, which include an understanding of the patient as a spiritual human being. These schools and programs look for study in the humanities, including philosophy and religion, in making their acceptance decisions.
Chris Hitchcock (philosophy/religion major - class of '95) has completed his graduate program in Occupational Therapy. He is now employed in Springfield, MO.
A philosophy minor or major, coupled with a major in history or political science, is the preferred preparation for law school. Because philosophy sharpens both critical thinking skills and ethical understanding, the legal profession places a premium on both.
Aaron Jones (philosophy major - class of '95) completed his law degree at the University of Missouri - Columbia and is now practicing law in Springfield.
Whatever their major and/or career choice, study in philosophy and religion is increasingly important in providing students with the skills needed for almost any career they choose. Philosophy and religion courses hone oral communication skills and are writing-intensive. Employers tell us that job applicants increasingly lack these crucial abilities. Those students who have acquired these skills are thus ever more desirable in the job market.
Dana Dierkes (philosophy major - class of '92) interviews politicians for the newsletter, "Common Sense," which has been awarded as the "Best Young Republican Newsletter in the Nation". Dana notes, "I believe my philosophy major has helped me to ask local and state politicians intelligent questions that are on a deeper level than questions asked by the press."
Philosophy and religion courses stress critical thinking. In particular, our PHIL 100 (Introduction to Logic) course helps students acquire the logical and critical thinking skills developed through the 2,500 year-old tradition of philosophy. These skills are most useful as they help students avoid persuasive but invalid arguments (as presented by sales representatives, politicians, etc.) and help students craft arguments which will stand up to critical scrutiny.
In our time, job descriptions are fluid. Competition in a rapidly changing job market means that employees can rely less and less on specific technical preparation. Rather, employers increasingly stress the ability of employees to think critically and creatively, so as to respond flexibly to new situations. Critical thinking is one of the central themes of philosophy and religion at Drury University. Dana Dierkes writes, "As a member of the professional staff at the University of Missouri at St. Louis, I believe my philosophy major has helped me to analyze every day situations on a deeper level which has allowed me to make more rational decisions in the work force. The intense theoretical study of Drury's philosophy program provides the student with the analytical skills needed for today's corporate world."
Philosophy and religion courses stress values analysis. Every student at Drury is required to take a Values Analysis course (e.g., Values Analysis, Medical Ethics, Environmental Ethics, or Christian Ethics). These courses introduce students to a collection of important skills and theories which are critical to clear thinking and our efforts to resolve the unavoidable ethical and political dilemmas we confront on a daily basis. Additional study in philosophical and religious ethics helps expand students' skills and insights concerning value issues. Employers increasingly stress the importance of an employee's ability to make informed ethical choices. These abilities are developed and sharpened by study in philosophical and religious ethics.
Any career that involves communication and negotiation with people - especially people from diverse cultural and religious backgrounds - will be helped by study in philosophy and religion. In both disciplines, we work to better understand other peoples' perspectives and beliefs - in part, so that we can learn to respect different viewpoints (including viewpoints with which we may disagree). Clearly, we can communicate and negotiate much better with people if we understand their basic philosophical and religious beliefs.
John Martella (business, finance, and philosophy major - class of '93), was asked while interviewing for his first job, "What good is your philosophy major?" He explained that philosophy helped him better understand other people's perspectives. He got the job.
As we enter the era of the global village, people must have a basic understanding of the religious beliefs and traditions that shape the politics and behavior of most of the world's peoples. If we do not understand the intricate continuities and contrasts between various Islamic traditions and Western Christianities as they have been reshaped by modern assumptions (the privatization of religion in democratic society, the rise of capitalism, etc.) - we cannot understand the political rifts between the Islamic world and our own. Given that Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world - including within the United States - informed citizens and effective businesses must develop a basic understanding of Islam and other world traditions. In addition to the comments at the top of this document, numerous graduates who move to larger cities - as well as overseas - regularly let us know how valuable their courses in religion and philosophy have been in helping them understand their Muslim neighbor across the hall, their Buddhist colleague at work, etc.
An undergraduate degree in philosophy or religion could lead to
The most important reason for studying philosophy and religion is: these are the fields that help us explore what it means to be and become who we are as individuals and as members of larger communities. As academic studies, philosophy and religion share common questions:
As human beings, our lives are defined by our answers to these (and related) questions - initially, as these answers have been given to us by others. But part of growing up, part of being a human being, is to take responsibility for determining our own responses to such questions. Such questions, and the effort to respond to them, are not the exclusive property of philosophy and religion as academic subjects. But they are the central and defining focus of our discipline.
Coupled with formal work in logic and critical thinking, studies in philosophy and religion are central to the project of a liberal arts education - namely, the project of knowing and becoming who we are, both as individuals and as members of larger communities.
If you have ever asked yourself such questions - you will find that formal study in philosophy and religion will help you grapple with these questions more systematically and in more satisfying ways.
What can you do with philosophy and religion? Not only can you get important job skills and career preparation, you can explore your humanity and religious sensibilities.
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