Is a Liberal Arts Education Important?

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An old friend recently sent me a link to an article because he knew of my interest in higher education and in college students. The article talks about the growing trend of colleges and universities toward dropping many of the “soft” courses such as arts and humanities in favor of focusing on a more career based curriculum. Reading the article made me sad and was very disheartening.

I’ve had this debate with colleagues, friends, and students. Is it important to get a well-rounded education or should institutions focus on simply teaching students the courses related to their field of study? So often students lament, “Why do I have to take this class? When will I ever use this?” And I can understand where they’re coming from. Please understand that this post isn’t about lecturing you or putting you down. I’d simply like to take this time to express my thoughts on the matter to let you know my philosophy and where I’m coming from; I’d like you to know why I think a liberal arts education is so important.

It Teaches You How To Learn

Taking courses over a wide variety of subjects expands your thinking skills. You’ll learn ways of looking at things differently and gain new perspective. You likely won’t enjoy every class you’re required to take, but you’ll most likely gain valuable skills in thinking and learning such as critical thinking, reasoning skills, and analytical skills that you may not have had the opportunity to acquire if studying only a single discipline.

It Provides Skills Employers Are Looking For

These learning skills are important to your future employers. They don’t want to have to teach you to think things through and to analyze problems. Exposure to a wide variety of subjects will prove you with the interpersonal skills employers like to see on the job as well. By immersing yourself in various learning situations, you’ll be exposed to people of many interests and backgrounds.

It Teaches You About Yourself

Involvement in a liberal arts education can also lead to self discovery. For example, in my Freshman year of college, I took a class called American National Government. It certainly wasn’t on my list of top choices, but it fit my schedule and met a liberal arts requirement. It was in that class that I realized I had a completely different political ideology than my parents. If I hadn’t been “forced” to take that class, I’m not sure my beliefs would be what they are today. Who knows what you could learn by being open to the possibilities of learning for learning’s sake. You may even discover a new passion.

You can read more about the benefits of a liberal arts education in this article and in this one. What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with me? Leave a comment or contact me. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Comments

Corina says:

I think that a liberal arts education is necessary to becoming a more well rounded person that is marketable. However, I do think that in the past universities have required too many liberal arts courses. Personally, liberal arts courses were an important part of my education as a high school science teacher. I understand that science does not live in a vacuum and I taught that to my students in a multidisciplinary approach. But, in order to get all the liberal arts requirements in as well as enough science courses to satisfy my requirement/wants (to make sure that I was as prepared as I could be), and enough education courses/student teaching, I could not do it in under 5 years. It was almost impossible. So, while I think that liberal arts education is necessary, I think that there might be a smarter approach for the requirements so that students are well rounded, yet are very well prepared in their field of study to be competitive…… without costing another year in tuition.

Nichelle says:

I found my liberal arts education to be very valuable and I found all of your points to be true for myself as well. I’m not sure all students look at their liberal arts courses as an opportunity but I felt like I was really learning and discovering for the first time in college. Perhaps this says something about my high school education more than college, but it is true. I learned a lot – even, as you mentioned, in unexpected places, and I continue to draw from the knowledge, concepts, and experiences I had in courses outside my major (which was dance).

I also feel Liberal Arts education provides to students much needed exposure to the arts. Particularly as the study of music/dance/art is being removed from public schools. As a student and during my time teaching at a university, I found many students were experiencing and learning to appreciate dance for the first time or in a new way. This was the first time they were asked to see art, analyze art, and even make art. Some men I know never even considered dance until, guess what? taking it in college. This may seem like a selfish reason, but I don’t think so. The arts encourage creative, conceptual, and critical thinking which are valuable in all fields and a value in society. As mentioned above, perhaps there is a better way to serve liberal arts education to students (often there is always a better way) that is economical and feels like less of a “chore.” But, stripping education down to only the courses that matter for a particular field creates tunnel-vision – it as though we would be creating “worker bees” for one purpose only.

[…] the education your state requires or your parents force you to get. While there are still certain requirements you must meet in order to receive your diploma, college is a time that you can really go after your […]

[…] Realize that you’re supposed to grow and change in college. That’s the point of a liberal arts education model that most colleges follow. When you notice these internal changes, take time to […]

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