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March 7 2018

In Defense of the Liberal Arts

by Rachel DiCarlo Currie

Amid our collective celebration of the “STEM” fields — science, technology, engineering, and math — many Americans have soured on the liberal arts. I don’t blame them. Business and political leaders constantly tell us that STEM jobs represent “the jobs of the future.” Parents understandably want their children’s college investments to pay off. And popular stereotypes suggest that a disproportionate number of humanities majors wind up underemployed and heavily indebted.

Meanwhile, far too many liberal-arts professors on campus have transformed English, history, and social-studies courses into PC indoctrination sessions in which identity politics and left-wing ideology trump real, substantive learning.

Given all that, defenders of the liberal arts face an uphill battle. So it’s always refreshing when someone from the tech world reminds us that a liberal-arts education — a proper liberal-arts education — “can be a great launching pad for a career in just about any industry.”

Michael Zimm made that case in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal, arguing that the liberal arts can help students cultivate valuable analytical and communications skills with broad application in the modern economy.

As he put it: “The ability to express a viewpoint verbally and then articulate it in writing is a skill that will serve graduates whether they are pitching a business plan to a venture-capital firm or writing a report to shareholders explaining why their portfolios took a hit last quarter.”

Zimm speaks from experience: He is a “trained classicist” who now works for a digital-marketing company.

He ended his Journal piece with some advice for anxious mothers and fathers: “When parents ask themselves ‘What course of study will help my child get a job?’ they shouldn’t think only about how the workforce operates today but how it will operate 10 or 20 years down the road. Though no one knows for sure exactly what the landscape will look like, we can be certain that critical thinking will still have value. And in that world, so will a liberal-arts degree.”

I explored this same topic in a pair of 2016 essays for Acculturated, which can be found here and here.

 

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Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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