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W(h)ither the Liberal Arts?

Stashed in: Young Americans, Learn!, Education!, Jeff Bezos, College, Education

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I'm just gonna put this out there... my friends in the 1% all have liberal arts degrees, and they push their kids to get them too. Everyone wants cheaper, more focused education FOR OTHER PEOPLE... but the gold standard is always and forever the liberal arts.

Woah, 74% of employers recommend a liberal arts education?!

Fareed Zakaria, the host of CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria’s GPS” and an editor-at-large at Time magazine, relies heavily on them throughout his new book, In Defense of a Liberal Education. “The central virtue of a liberal education,” he writes, “is that it teaches you how to write, and writing makes you think.”

A related strength, he says, is instruction in “how to learn…how to read an essay closely, search for new sources, find data to prove or disprove a hypothesis, and detect an author’s prejudice.”

By exposing students to ideas, experiences, emotions and values they might not otherwise encounter, a liberal education gives graduates a greater capacity to be good friends, family members and citizens.

Although it needs to be interrogated and qualified, his argument could not come at a more important time.

Along with many other defenders of liberal learning, Zakaria also maintains that it can – and does – pay off financially. He cites a survey published by the American Association of Colleges and Universities in which 74% of employers recommended a liberal arts education as the best preparation for the global economy – and he quotes a slew of prominent businessmen, including Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Norman Augustine(Lockheed Martin), and Edgar Bronfman (Seagram Company), who agree.

Agree! As we look to get more people involved in STEM education, we should not forget the Liberal Arts. It's sometimes concerning that the very young CEOs (of many of those unicorns discussed elsewhere) have little to no life work experience nor broad education.

I came across this quote a few days ago from A.G. Lafley, CEO of Proctor and Gamble that I have been saving to share somewhere. Now is as good a time as any:

"Developing one's mind is no different from developing a strong body: exercise and, specifically, cross training. By studying art, science, the humanities, social science, and languages, the indivdiual develops the mental dexterity that opens a person to new ideas, which is the currency for success in a constantly changing environment."

It's a good message but one that's difficult to get across to young people who want to emulate their heroes who they perceive as highly specialized (as an athlete, artist, or savant entrepreneur).

Yes, and in some ways I think most people don't take an interest in broader learning until they are a littler older. Take literature as an example.  A young person is trying to relate to the current world so Dickens holds no interest to them at that time. History is looking backwards at events when a young person is dealing with maneuvering through the current world and interested in the future. Foreign languages are confusing when you are still learning vocabulary and how to communicate in your own language.

It's much more satisfying for the young to focus on the one thing that interests them for the future. Almost like a vocational education for professional positions.

For me it was almost an accident but I'm glad I studied literature. Before college, I didn't know how to empathize or relate to other kids and I heard reading literature increased empathy. I desperately did not want to grow up to be a misanthrope. Also my mentor and friends were from high society and I needed a liberal arts degree to fit in with the philanthropists and execs who, as Joyce mentioned, mostly have liberal arts degrees. I already studied history and philosophy by myself but didn't read fiction.

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