Living in a society where engineering, medical and technological fields provide a never-ending supply of viable and high -paying careers, pursuing a liberal arts degree can seem disheartening at times.
Graduates of liberal arts institutions typically earn lower salaries starting out if they can find jobs in their designated fields at all.
However, now more than ever, the case for a liberal arts education ought to be recognized to provide our growing and ever-changing society with necessary and timeless skills.
According to the Association of American Colleges and Universities, a liberal education “is an approach to learning that empowers individuals and prepares them to deal with complexity, diversity and change. [It] develops a sense of social responsibility, as well as strong and transferable intellectual and practical skills such as communication, analytical and problem-solving skills, and a demonstrated ability to apply knowledge and skills in real world settings.”
Wouldn’t these skills fit nicely in a world ravaged with hate, discrimination and growing political tensions?
This distinctive educational model allows students to pursue a well-rounded education in place of a constricted career path. Individuals learn to utilize their full human capacities in a search for betterment within their community, learning to understand and empathize with others to engender the best society possible.
According to Vedika Khemani, a writer of the New York Times, “The ability to synthesize different perspectives into the big picture is far more powerful than narrow expertise in any single field. Real-world problems rarely ever have textbook solutions.”
The liberal arts seek to answer these questions through exploring different perspectives of time, place and society to offer multi-faceted solutions.
In addition, humanity cannot be expressed through an equation or the scientific method. People across the globe desire to be understood as more than numerals, something that a purely fact-oriented society is not capable of providing. The expression of this humanity comes in many forms, including literature, art and language—all of which are contained in the liberal arts.
Additionally, employers are seeking liberal arts graduates. According to Rob Sentz, a contributor to Forbes, these employees “have honed valuable skills that might be left underdeveloped in other majors. Businesses value these graduates’ critical thinking skills, communication abilities and creativity.”
As seen at Augustana University, these references ring true.
Even students pursuing degrees in biology and mathematics are required to take classes in the arts, humanities and social sciences to fulfill general graduation requirements. In other words, all students learn to communicate and effectively pursue a career while being trained as responsible global citizens.
While medical and technical fields have drastically expanded in recent years, the liberal arts have never ceased to matter. As Walt Whitman wrote, “I contain multitudes,” and he’s not the only one.
Rebekah Tuchscherer is a political science and journalism major from Milbank, S.D.