Liberal Arts Degrees: Are They Still Useful?
Liberals have always been comfortable with being open-minded. They have always been good with questioning authority figures. They take a natural skepticism to issues that defy logic and rationality, but can apply the same skepticism to finding the truth. They value objective views and opinions, but don’t lose sight of the biases that can make even the most careful research stumble.
The liberal arts are great for understanding how the world really works. They help to not only find answers, but also understand the years of thought needed to understand them. In the following article, we’ll be exploring the question of whether liberal arts degrees are still necessary (hint: the answer is yes!). We’ll also be delving into the why part of the answer. Let’s begin!
The State of Liberal Arts in Education
Liberal arts education is still taught in the United States across the full spectrum: junior high, high school, college. That said, it’s not getting the same love these days as the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). Those types of majors seem to be “in demand” at present. But one thing their exacting ways fail to teach to any real degree is the necessity of questioning authority.
Founders of companies and CEOs, by nature, butt up against this line of thinking. They follow and implement what they believe, even if it goes against the grain. In fact, billionaires like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos got where they are because they refused to go along with the established norms. Their “liberal arts” side caused them to evaluate and question the way their industries did business and, as a result, they revolutionized their fields.
People like Musk and Bezos have a unique ability to find balance between data and beliefs. Their open-mindedness comes from the liberal arts, and it makes them exceptional at what they do. And it doesn’t stop there. The tenets of liberal arts are applied at every level of American society, from Presidents to Supreme Court Justices.
Liberal Arts Degrees Enhance Analytical Thinking Skills
Proponents of liberal arts degrees (rightly) argue that these degree pathways enhance analytical thinking skills, making those who hold degrees in these fields better problem-solvers. This happens by forcing them to use logic, reason, and diverse sources when finding facts and solving problems in any given situation.
To a liberal arts major, every problem is not a nail in need of a hammer. They see high crime rates and think about changing systems to reduce crime. This might not seem as satisfying to a culture that likes to see the “bad guy get theirs.” However, it acts as a force multiplier for prevention over time. Rather than the cycle of crime perpetuating, circumstances are changed so families that might have been touched by crime avoid ever becoming victims or perpetrators of it.
It all starts with the question of why. When you ask why something is happening and you come at it from every angle, you see opportunities for improvement and life enrichment. That type of vision is important to companies large and small.
Getting a Liberal Arts Degree Will Help You Refine Your Soft Skills
Soft skills are becoming ever more in demand. These include empathy, relationship-building, and cultural sensitivity. America, and the world, is becoming increasingly less white as time goes on. The population will continue to intermingle and bring with it a plethora of diversity across the board. Unfortunately, diversity often comes with discrimination or implicit bias. These things can stifle the ultimate fruits of a diversity and inclusion.
Liberal arts majors are taught to develop their soft skills more so than those who work in technical and technological fields. In a world where more and more of us are expecting responsible world citizenship from businesses, these are vital skills to have at-the-ready. They are great for interpreting reports, promoting inclusion, and helping a business be a good “citizen of the world.”
Liberal Arts Degrees Can Help You Find Your Way
So many come to the liberal arts unsure of where the ultimate career pathway for them lies. The good news is that the curriculum for most liberal arts degrees is interesting and engaging. It helps you get to know yourself better. It helps you understand where you might best serve the world. And if you’re considering a more advanced degree in lucrative fields such as medicine, education, or the law, it can help you get through the crucial first four years of school and on into a graduate program.
Liberal Arts Degrees Come In Many Shapes and Sizes
Conservative pundits like Ben Shapiro make fun of liberal arts degrees by derogatorily saying that someone with such a degree “majored in lesbian dance theory.” While there may be classes with such topics at some schools, the Shapiros of the world are trying to cheapen the value of such degrees because they have a problem with the word “liberal” and all that comes with it.
In reality, liberal arts are about history, philosophy, communication, language, literature, and, yes, even mathematics. You might not get the job of your dreams by stopping at a bachelor’s degree, but a liberal arts degree can give you a different viewpoint, a different way of looking at the world and those with whom you share it. You can bring that with you into more lucrative graduate fields while keeping your undergraduate expenses to a minimum and actually having a good time learning!
These degree plans often prepare students for tougher classes by fostering a love for education. They can prepare you for life as much as any engineering or coding class ever could. And with such STEM-type fields becoming increasingly ruled by automation, who’s to say there won’t be just as many jobs available to liberal arts majors 10 years from now? In fact, the new book 2030, which seeks to analyze the trends that will define our next 10 years, argues exactly that.
Automation is coming for everyone, so it is the soft skills that will matter more as we head to that inflection point. It might not be anything the STEM crowd wants to admit, but we will see more technological change and advancement over the next 100 years than we did in the previous 1,000. It will come hard and fast and change the way we live and work. Liberal arts majors can be the conscious that helps guide technology toward building a better existence for humankind.
Liberal Arts Degrees May Not Be For Everyone
Liberal arts degrees are not everyone’s cup of tea. And it’s true that we need STEM, especially at this pivotal juncture in our economy and the age of automation that lies ahead. But we also need the liberal arts, and the need for these majors will be greater and greater over the next decade as we figure out humanity’s place in a world that is increasingly controlled by machines.
But what do you think, readers? Are liberal arts degrees more or less relevant now, and are you considering going that path if you’re still trying to decide on a major? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.
[Featured Image by Elliance]