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Killing the B.A.?

“We think the students need to have a grounding in the arts and sciences, but they also probably need some training in a specific area.”

via Jobs: The Economy, Killing Liberal Arts Education? – Newsweek.com.

My first degree was a simple humanities degree.  A Bachelor of Arts in Social Sciences – kind of sounds like I should have been a Social Worker.  I tell people it was a lot of history and literature with a dollop of politics and religion thrown in for good measure.  I read a lot and consequently wrote a lot.

“Among liberal-arts proponents, the concern is that students who specialize in specific careers will lack critical thinking skills and the ability to write, analyze, and synthesize information. While business education tends to prepare students to work well in teams or give presentations, it often falls short in teaching students to do in-depth research or to write critically outside of the traditional business communiqués of memos or PowerPoints.”

I came away with the ability to think, not just regurgitate facts.  Take the essence of a idea and expound on it to create a synthesis of information and present it in understandable form.  And the realization that my career path involved a lot of  “Do you want fries with that?”

My first job out of college though hired me because of this ability.  I worked for Korean Air Cargo and was the very epitome of “needing training” some on-the-job aspects.  But here’s the kicker:  I already knew the job having done it while in school.  Thus I became their go to guy for “How do you say this?”

I think a foundation in the liberal arts is essential, one needs to know how to read and write, formulate an argument, reconcile multiple viewpoints and perspectives and be an informed member of society.  Unfortunately with the demonization of intelligence that has run rampant through American society, what with reality TV, celebutantes and Gen Y, we’re quickly devolving into the society forecasted in Idiocracy, full of mouth-breathing knuckle-draggers.  Luckily not all of us are running that route.

The push however for job-oriented training in lieu of actual knowledge makes this too clear.  By not knowing our past, we’re condemned to repeat it.  And if your college education does not contain any mention of the past or a brief glossed over macro view, but merely the training for a career, we’ve already lost.

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  1. April 7, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    I’d suggest the entire American educational path needs to be examined, or reëxamined. I dropped out of college to dive into a corporate world, prepared with many of the critical thinking skills necessary for a good career (13+ years) in finance and technology. I was given an outstanding education by two excellent Chicago public schools, but my college peers were woefully undereducated.

    Now that I’m returning to pursue a career in nursing, I’m finding the same types of people lacking the essentials I saw many moons ago. They’re new to college and can’t even see the box, much less think outside of it. The scariest part, the one that gives me great pause, is that many of my current peers may just become future health workers in America.

    I agree that a liberal arts focus is not only needed, it should be mandatory. It just has to start when we’re kids, not in college.

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