Food for Thought Friday: Does a Liberal Arts Degree Matter?

Humanities Lime Grove, Manchester Univer by Gene Hunt, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  Gene Hunt 

by Kristie Burk

I will never forget my uncle’s reaction when I told him that I was going to major in English at Providence College as an undergrad.

“You won’t get a job with that degree!” he advised.  “You should at least minor in business.”

I didn’t minor in business; I actually double majored in English and Secondary Education. Providence College is a liberal arts school where all the students are required to take courses in social science, natural science, philosophy, ethics, theology, mathematics, English and fine arts.

And the good news is that I have been gainfully employed ever since I graduated!

So it was with great interest that I listened to Fareed Zakaria speak at the Schoology Next conference in Chicago in July. His book In Defense of a Liberal Education was part of our “swag” at the conference. (Thank you, Schoology!)  In his book, Zakaria argues that we still need a liberal arts education to gain valuable skills, including how to read, how to write, and how to learn, that are applicable to all jobs.

“It’s true that more Americans need technical training, and all Americans need greater scientific literacy. But the drumbeat of talk about skills and jobs has not lured people into engineering and biology—not everyone has the aptitude for science—so much as it has made them nervously forsake the humanities and take courses in business and communications. Many of these students might well have been better off taking a richer, deeper set of courses in subjects they found fascinating—and supplementing it, as we all should, with some basic knowledge of computers and math. In any event, what is clear is that the gap in technical training is not being caused by the small percentage of students who choose four-year degrees in the liberal arts.” – Fareed Zakaria

Some technology companies agree!  In fact, an article in Forbes argues that the “‘Useless’ Liberal Arts Degree Has Become Tech’s Hottest Ticket.”  Check it out this weekend!


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