- Posted January 19, 2014 by
Liberal Education for Business
Melissa Beattie-Moss asks a fascinating question in an article on gantdaily.com today entitled "Probing Question: Is a Liberal Arts Education Relevant in Today's Economy?"
She spoke with Steven Sherrill, associate professor of English and integrative arts at Penn State Altoona, who told her, “The world has always needed people who aren’t guided solely by the pragmatic or the profitable. The impulse to create and the drive to understand ‘the big picture’ are things that mark us as human. We make for the sake of making, and to share what we have made.”
Beattie-Moss says that Sherrill finds the emphasis on specialized education short-sighted: “Technology and the economy are rapidly changing. Adaptability and flexibility are more than important; they are necessary. Students in the arts and humanities learn how to explore and discover and innovate, not just how to perform specialized tasks.”
And she points to recent reports—for example, a study by the American Association of Colleges and Universities—showing employers are beginning to understand that the employees they really want are those who have graduated from liberal arts colleges.
Beattie-Moss’s article puts me in mind of a unique liberal arts college that does liberal education the old school way: St. John's College in Annapolis, Maryland and Santa Fe, New Mexico. The curriculum at St. John’s has students study the fundamental texts of western civilization and actually discuss them with faculty members and other students, instead of having students just attend lectures about them. In this way, students become independent individuals, relying on their own thinking and creating rather than that of their professors. When they leave college, they are ready to take on the challenges of life because they have actually been doing exactly that for four years.
This sort of direct engagement with the pillars of modern life may be too intense for some students, but there are many fine liberal arts colleges all over the nation where students of varying interests can pursue wide-ranging and empowering educations. Isn’t it obvious that people who have learned to teach themselves—because their educations have trained them to be independent—are going to be more successful at meeting the demands of today’s ever changing careers that those who must always be taught by others?
If you are a prospective college student, or the parent of one, don’t you think that today’s challenges make it reasonable to investigate the opportunities available at the nation’s extraordinary liberal arts colleges?