What is Liberal Arts Education?

The value of a liberal-arts education

Many people today are skeptical about higher education in general and the liberal arts in particular. They worry about the cost of college and the relevance of the liberal arts in the workplace. Some have a similar reaction as the gentleman seated next to me on a flight last year. When he turned to me and asked what I do, I replied that I’m president of a small liberal-arts college. “Wow, ” he said. “Good luck with that.”

Jill Tiefenthaler

I’m an optimist when it comes to higher education, however, and I believe that a liberal-arts education has never been more relevant in terms of preparing young people for work and life. Every day on our campus, we’re opening minds and hearts so students can see opportunities in the world, focus their energies and collaborate with others to find new solutions to complex problems. We’re preparing them to be leaders in whatever fields they enter—individuals who are resilient in the face of change, which is the one thing they’ll surely face for the rest of their lives.

A rapidly changing world means that young people will need to know the value of seeing things from different perspectives and be experts in collaboration and communication. The only way they can prepare for the future—for jobs that don’t yet exist—is to develop nimble minds, comfort with different cultures and ideas, and skill at writing and speaking—which are all qualities developed by the liberal arts.

Unfortunately, many people make the all-too-common mistake of confusing education with training. The idea that colleges should simply be factories for producing graduates focused exclusively in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields is shortsighted. While getting a job that leads to a fulfilling career is a great reason for going to college, it certainly isn’t the only one. A liberal education—including, for example, philosophy, art and sociology as well as math and physics—educates the whole person, and prepares students to excel in a range of careers and, most importantly, live lives rich with meaning and purpose. A liberal-arts education teaches students to learn how to learn, and inspires them to go on learning throughout their lives.

We no longer live in a world where people hold the same jobs throughout their entire lives. Many of our students will have jobs in 10 years that don’t exist now. For that reason, our colleges must continue to prepare young people to think with rigor and creativity rather than simply train them for a particular line of work.

You might also like
What is a liberal arts college?
What is a liberal arts college?
Dr. Mike Allcott - What is a Liberal Arts Education Worth?
Dr. Mike Allcott - What is a Liberal Arts Education Worth?
What Is Liberal Arts College?
What Is Liberal Arts College?
What is a liberal arts education?
What is a liberal arts education?
Related Posts