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Op-ed: A liberal arts degree is a ‘perfect fit’ for today’s students

Christine Goss writes students with traditional liberal arts degrees, such as sociology or philosophy, “have long been a target of the often-mocking question.”

“What are you going to do with that?” That’s the question these students face. For Goss, the answer is plenty.

In a piece published at The Federalist, Goss, founder and president of Pixton Public Relations, makes her case that even in today’s world a liberal arts education “empowers [students] with the tools to be resourceful, practical, and adaptable in addressing challenges in many professions.”

From the article:

True, many liberal arts graduates like me also joke that we don’t use our degrees, but that is disingenuous. The topics themselves are just a medium for developing a skillset that will serve us well in all areas of our lives for years to come. Sifting through volumes of information, developing opinions, identifying sources and information to defend those views, and meeting deadlines are all part of a rigorous liberal arts education.

The bigger theme to these components is that a liberal arts education is not formulaic. As in life, right and wrong are not always clear-cut. Instead, accomplishing life goals comes down to the individual. The individual is tasked with navigating through the information available and developing an end product. When a student encounters information that undermines her original view, it’s up to her to reverse course or adapt accordingly.

An asset of a liberal arts education is that it provides students with a swath of skills, not just knowledge tailored to one specific subject or field of study, Goss argues. That’s a benefit for students when they hit the job market, she writes:

Interestingly, it’s not the lack of hard skills troubling employers, but soft skills. A survey by Payscale.com cites specifics about why they complain so many recent graduates are underprepared to enter the workforce. According to the managers surveyed, new hires are “lacking in critical thinking and problem-solving skills (60 percent) and attention to detail (56 percent) as well as writing proficiency (44 percent) and public speaking (39 percent).” These are exactly the dynamic, transferable skills that a liberal arts education is supposed to develop.

Nevertheless, elected officials and bureaucrats seem deaf to lamentations of employers and continue to drive the rhetoric, as well as various programs, pushing for more people to enter trade schools or STEM fields. Unfortunately, the trend of polarization, which has come to define everything from politics to where people choose to shop, has crept into education. Technical, hard skills, and knowledge of the sciences are great, but instead of picking one field or approach over another other—e.g., science or humanities; hard or soft skills—people should be encouraged develop themselves “on both sides of the aisle,” so to speak.

Goss writes liberal arts degrees “are not failing graduates and employers,” but argues universities are failing students by providing inadequate liberal arts programs.

“Instead of facilitating forums for intellectual debate and supporting young adults to develop critical thinking skills, recent examples coming out of U.S. universities and colleges reveal that classrooms and campuses look more like indoctrination centers for zealous professors,” she writes.

Read the full article.

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