We Can’t Forget The Liberal Arts

Commentary from the Washington Post last week.

Together, academics and administrators have championed a soft and directionless core curriculum, one that fails to challenge or inspire students. Often the result is students who complete their general education requirements with little engagement and seldom stray from their major area of study.

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We have lost sight of the fact that our courses may be stale, overly dogmatic and uninteresting to students, accepting our role as an often unwanted requirement on the path to a diploma.

The result of these unforced errors is that, for many, the liberal arts no longer are an integral part of what constitutes a college education. They are easily replaced. A three-week overseas study class has become acceptable to fulfill the sole humanities component of a plan of study.

I understand why schools focus on STEM. “It’s where the jobs are,” people say. And I was told many times that I should study something more “real” than literature in college, nevermind the fact that I was privileged enough to be able to choose.

But the humanities are vital. Even for technical jobs, being unable to think critically and express yourself in writing renders a person relatively limited. And as much as AI will do its best to replace us, I suspect that truly original writing will be one of the final jobs it takes way.

Ultimately, as I study more about education policy, I think that agreeing upon an expansive group of needed skills for college entrance and graduation, a group that should include STEM but also humanities to different extents, and an eventual transition to a P-20 educational system would help students of all levels, backgrounds and ages.

Most important is what our new approach to the liberal arts offers students: communication and creative thinking skills to prepare business leaders, well-rounded scientists and good citizens.