The timing of a liberal education | Unsorted comments | -- Your State. Your News.

May 27th
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The timing of a liberal education

I had the benefit of receiving an intense liberal arts education in high school, which included an intense study of Latin, Philosophy, many English, American, and World Literature Classics, and many other humanities. While I may not remember every point Aristotle made in the Nicomachean ethics, by studying the humanities my mind has been crafted to dissect and express any idea. Studying philosophy helped me to understand ideas, art gave me the appreciation of truly beautiful ideas, and Latin and Literature gave me the means to express ideas of my own. But in college, every student is faced with a difficult dilemma: does one build a liberal arts background, or specialize in the hope of landing a better paying job? Because the modern economy is becoming severly more specialized, it is increasingly difficult to pick up any profession without prior training in today's job market. For example, it is almost impossible for a Philosophy major to work on an engineering design team. Why? Because the philosophy major has not taken any of the classes that have specifically groomed the engineer to accomplish his task. The philosophy major is perfectly capable of learning how to be an engineer, as the liberal arts degree has taught him or her how to think and digest and express ideas, but he or she is at the back of the line for the immediate engineering job. However, a student who does study to be an engineer in college but who has no training in the humanities is also sorely limited in the modern job market. Because the engineer has little practice in writing, speaking, or expressing ideas, he or she will have difficulty advancing the corporate ladder from the design team to a management position because he does not have the refined skill to understand the perspectives of the people he or she is managing, or how to communicate properly and effectively to the employees, crucial elements in the business world. We find that both a liberal arts background and some specialized training are extremely beneficial in today's job market. The interesting paradox to this reality is that high schools are becoming more particular; magnet schools and focused computer science classes are growing in popularity every year. Consequentially, this change of focus in high schools has provoked the universities to now emphasize or employ a core curriculum of the liberal arts. The roles of these educational institutions have switched, to the disadvantage of the student, for the student could benefit more from taking specialized classes in an institution of larger resources and funds, such as labs, databases, etc., instead of learning in an insufficiently funded high school specialized class. If a liberal education is indeed essential to maintain America’s status as a beacon of democracy, then the only way to prevent the decadence of American culture without hampering a student’s chance at obtaining a position in a focused field is to start humanities studies in high school, which was the traditional system. Progress has gone too far in education by throwing out the foundational studies that shape the way western culture thinks for the sake of an edge in the job market. Universities are recognizing the value of a liberal arts education, so why shouldn’t high schools? If a student receives a well-founded humanities education where he or she learns how to think, write and speak, that student will not only be able to learn in concentrated fields with a higher comprehension, but also be able to take those specialized classes in an institution with the resources to give them a full educational experience. The engineer would have already learned how to communicate his thoughts and identify with people, giving him or her the edge on other engineers looking for a management position. The philosophy major would already have had a background of philosophy, and could advance to higher thought or use more time to take classes in other fields, thus expanding his perspective and giving him or her the opportunity to pursue another field, such as engineering or business management. The liberal arts education has enabled me to reason, write, and appreciate the many joys of life that are hidden from us unless we know where to look. I am thankful that I was taught where to look in high school, so that I can fully appreciate them here at college.


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