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The Importance of Liberal Arts Education

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Imagine being stuck in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. You’re with a group of cold, hungry, and dehydrated survivors, and you are in need of more supplies in order to survive another night. However, the streets are swarming with the undead, buildings have fallen into ruins, and the economy has withered into recession. It will be very difficult to find and retrieve survival equipment back into home base. In situations like this, critical thinking and problem solving are crucial skills, for you need to be able solve problems and make the best and safest decisions in order to sustain both you and your group. Those abilities can be efficiently obtained when educated in a liberal arts framework.

Therefore, a liberal arts education can be beneficial, especially in an apocalyptic phenomena. While the opposing side argues that a liberal arts education is a waste of time, evidence shows that it holistically benefits all students and society because it provides individuals with creative, writing, reading, and problem-solving skills that will ensure growth and well-roundedness, financial stability, and a successful future. Liberal arts is defined as education that provides growth for general knowledge and intellectual ability. It offers a wide range of education for students and allows individuals to acquire abilities to be prepared for the future, such as critical thinking, problem-solving, reading, writing, and listening effectively.

A liberal arts education can be very beneficial, however, some would like to think otherwise. The opposing side may argue that liberal arts does not actually guarantee a job for those who went through four years of college. The economy is more focused on STEM based education, and as stated in Cohen’s (2016) article, STEM is seen as “job-friendly” and “important” (p. 1). As quoted in Cohen’s (2016) article, Governor Matt Bevin claimed that there just will “be more incentives to electrical engineers than French literature majors” (p. 1). Our economy has no use for those majoring in liberal arts, for example. Although this may be true, it is only true to an extent. Liberal education trains individuals to become better-rounded and to be leaders that make a difference in the world. Even if liberal arts has some negative aspects, the benefits outweigh it all.

To begin with, when you are liberally educated, you can adapt better when placed in different or difficult situations because of skills such as critical thinking, creative problem solving, technological, and communication skills. When it comes to an economic crisis, people with technical skills are more likely to have difficulty adapting for they only have certain abilities in which they can perform in their own field. It is not to say that they don’t have any other skills that they learned outside of school, such as fixing a bike, dealing with plumbing, and etc. However, it will be more advantageous if one were to possess soft skills during a crisis for it will be more useful when facing difficult situations. For instance, abilities such as critical thinking and problem-solving are more convenient during a zombie apocalypse because one would frequently face situations where those skills would take play. Humphreys and Carnevale (2016) noted Norm Augustine, a former Chairman and CEO of Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU) stated his belief that if there were a ready supply of workers with skills that can be obtained through a liberal arts education, the American economy would be able to recover from the Great Recession. Individuals that possess those skills can come together and minimize the world’s problems. Additionally, since the world is constantly advancing, technical skills can quickly become outdated knowledge. A particular skill one excels at might not be useful in the future when changes in the workplace occur, such as when he/she is placed with another group. So, it is not about whether a person possess the right skills necessary for the job, but rather, how well one can adapt to that situation and gain new abilities from it. With that, this shows that liberal arts education can be beneficial to students and our society.

Moreover, when students partake in a liberal arts education, they can explore more of their passions to its fullest potential. Some people come into college already having a set major they want to pursue. Then they discover new fields such as criminology, anthropology, archaeology, sociology, etc. and fall in love with it. Those people had a broad vision beforehand, but when exposed to a variety of fields, they found new things they were passionate to pursue. Liberal arts offer a wide range of education for students to find and explore what they want to do in the future. Going to a non-liberal arts school, where students are more focused towards their majors, are more likely to miss out on an opportunity. In other words, they’ll be trapped in a bubble where the only thing ahead is their intentions, and nothing more. They could possibly be missing out on opportunities liberal arts has to offer. In addition, after graduating from high school and transitioning into college, some students have not even decided on their intended major, yet. So, when going through liberal arts, they will be exposed to different courses that explored varieties of subjects which they can experience. Similarly, Fareed, in an interview conducted by Shapiro (2015), described how he took a course on modern American cinema mainly because he wanted to take an “easy” course since he was loaded with other courses that semester. What he didn’t know was that it was going to leave a lasting and powerful impression on him. “I had never taken that stuff seriously and kind of engaged with,” Fareed stated. “It taught me about America…Who would have known that that would be an interesting course?” (Shapiro, 2016, p. 1). Fareed also stated that liberal arts “allow people to range widely, to read widely, to explore their passions. Let one interest lead to another and on and on. ” He believes that it is incredibly important to have the ability to feed one’s curiosity and indulge in it. (Shapiro, 2016, p. 3). Fareed’s experience shows that when exposed to a wide variety of courses, one can find meaning into it. It can grow into an interest and a passion that they might grow into and fulfill. Through liberal arts, one can benefit by being able to be exposed to different courses that might just spark a new passion.

Critics might argue that in the real world, many students have bills to pay such as cost of education and loans, and they tend to gravitate towards jobs that can help them pay those off. The question is, are they confident enough to major the things they are passionate for even when pay is low? There are some individuals who want to pursue their careers regardless of the circumstances. Some people want to live their lives to its fullest and do something they truly love rather than to give it all up just to pay their debts quickly. In addition, it is not to say that those pursuing a liberal arts degree cannot gain a reasonable income. It’s always a possibility that they can find higher paying jobs. For instance, outstanding artists do not always struggle to make ends meet. Just like Michelangelo, artists can become millionaires when their work and effort reach public interests. Society will pay higher prices for their artwork. So it is not all the time that those with liberal arts degrees obtain low-paying jobs.

One of the many things employers seek for when recruiting an individual is their well-roundedness. A well-rounded individual possess the ability to adapt to different situations, is capable of understanding the needs of living beings, effectively seeks solutions to the world’s problems, and empowers and nurtures those around them (Cronon, 1998). Employers are more likely to choose someone who went to a liberal arts school, for they are better equipped to do a job efficiently. According to Lawrence (2018), he states that “students who are more interested in medicine and engineering find that taking rigorous classes in anthropology, philosophy, history and creative writing helps them better understand future patients or the end users of their technology” (p. 1). What he means by this is that those who take classes outside of their intended major are more likely to gain better knowledge and gain skills that will effectively increase their performance in their major. “What about the employers that do not view other skills as important?” Critics might question. “There’s bound to be jobs that only want people to be good at one skill. ” It is true that jobs like those exist. However, even if there are employers who may not care about what you do, most of the time, the skills you gain through a liberal arts education can help you in the long run. Moreover, considering that the world is constantly advancing, jobs would likely change as well. Being well-rounded will help aid people to adapt to those circumstances. Not only that, in a money-driven world, employers would want their businesses to thrive in order to gain a considerable amount of profit. With that, they would more likely hire those who have skills that allow businesses to benefit. Therefore, a liberal arts education, and the things people gain from it, can be useful for students and society overall.

So why does this matter? Why should people care about whether or not liberal arts benefits students and society overall? Education is not just about getting a reasonable income. America is falling behind with problems arising such as the staggering rates of the opioid crisis, mass shootings that kill many individuals, student debt piling, and the education system dwindling. Not to mention that the U. S. is also suffering from the high rates of poverty, disease, world hunger, and global warming. Our society needs individuals who are educated, who have the skills to effectively view the problem as a whole, break them down into pieces, and find ways to diminish them. We need more of those who have achieved these skills – which can be obtained through a liberal arts education – to make society better. Only then can the economy rise up to make American great again. Despite the negative aspects, the benefits of liberal arts outweighs all for it trains students to be well-rounded adults and live and sustain a successful future. Liberal arts can train students to be well adjusted to situations, making them very reliable and efficient workers for employers, and it can also allow students to explore their passion. Without liberal education, how can our economy grow and advance further?

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