Letter I to Alex: On People, STEM, and the Humanities

Aristotle tutoring Alexander by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris, 1895


You have sought what I hope to be a just counsel regarding the role of the sexes in academia and, specifically, the humanities. It has been the subject of my conscience often and has occupied my subconscious since I first put pen to paper. So in due course, I hope to set you off well.

So they will call Alex a woman for writing poetry and essays in his journal? For reading Shakespeare and Tacitus? Well, recall to them that Alexander the Great was no stranger to strong words when he penned cowardly Darius. Remind them that Alexander neither fretted in the power of persuasion before the mutineers, nor strayed far from his tutor Aristotle as a boy. The same could be said of Caesar who read of Alexander and Grant who read of Caesar’s tears.

And if they should really be so backwards to think that power is what makes a man, remind them that it was no engineer who started the French Revolution; or, if it were, it was the “softer side” of their brain that played both fuse and fire for that monumental event. But why should we segregate such things to begin with? It’s the humanities, after all.

You see, your generation has before you a chance to correct not one, but two great missteps. For one, it would take a great philosopher and historian to explain what is at fault but the issue persists: somehow or other, men are fleeing the humanities at large since this last century and women have taken it up. Yet today, we hear that we need more women in STEM and, for my part, I will say we need more men in the humanities.

Most certain on this topic, though, is the root misstep. We began only with the renaissance man and regressed even from that. What notion is there of the renaissance man or renaissance woman today? Men should neglect neither half of their brains, nor should women for that matter. Remember, we were fools to think things would be for the better if we ignored the education of our daughters. Let us not allow invisible divisions to cast that mistake on both our daughters and sons.

My regards,


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