Liberal arts education is undervalued
Lexicon of reason
Published: Sunday, February 6, 2011
Updated: Sunday, February 6, 2011 18:02
America's economic recession is having a dangerous effect on higher education. Many universities focus on programs that are exclusively directed toward basic skill acquisition for employment.
Science, engineering, and math are seen as solid building blocks for our future workforce. These are important areas of study but they are only one part of the big picture. Scores of universities are cutting Liberal Arts programs. Analysts argue that disciplines such as classical studies, philosophy, history, cultural anthropology and sociology have no real value within the modern workforce. Many of these programs are seen as frivolous or nonessential and they are among the first to be cut from a university budget.
This trend reflects a disturbing change within higher education. The value of critical thinking skills has diminished. The ability to operate the latest computer software is often seen as more important than the ability to engage in critical thinking or make ethical decisions. Employers benefit from an unthinking workforce. If nothing is ever challenged then the status quo will always be maintained.
Universities should avoid focusing on "check the box" skills at the expense of developing critical thinkers. We, as future leaders, need to ask ourselves an important question: What are the goals of a college education? Some of the goals should be to train a workforce, broker knowledge, stimulate thought and develop the ability for students to critically evaluate any situation.
The study of liberal arts is uniquely suited to developing the skills needed to navigate through the maze of life's choices. Universities should strive to maintain Liberal Arts programs and integrate their courses with science, engineering and math programs. The recession should not mark the end of a robust, valuable and meaningful college education.
Contact columnist MICHAEL ADKINS at firstname.lastname@example.org.