Dean, our double-Master’s degrees in liberal arts member, asks if education is just about the Benjamins these days. Certainly, the worst recession in living memory has concentrated the minds of young people. Add to that the skyrocketing cost of college and the growing need for technical skills to hold many jobs, and you’ve pretty much turned college (and vocational education) into a bloodless transactional affair for most young people these days.
But, is college as something more – a voyage of self-discovery, a place for creating good citizens, etc. – really dying out? Dean will open our meeting with his brief take on this question, and then we can discuss it. I’m particularly interested in people’s personal stories and experience on this one, a la the first discussion question, below.
Discussion Questions –
- What kind of education did you get? Was it in the liberal arts or in another field that we typically think of as lower-paying? Why did you make this choice? What did you get out of it and what did you give up?
- How many people get a liberal arts education these days compared to the past? What has caused this change?
- Is there really a monetary disadvantage to a liberal arts education? What, if anything, compensates for that?
- What about from a societal perspective? Do we need liberal arts to form good citizens and well-rounded adults? Should our educations system go out of its way to revive liberal arts?
What is the purpose of education?
- Long discussion of education’s basic purposes, embedded in a liberal critique of No Child Left Behind.
- Well, most Americans say education IS mainly about getting a job.
- And, the wage – and happiness – premium of a college degree is higher than ever!
What is a liberal arts education?
- Definition of the liberal arts: “Academic disciplines, such as languages, literature, history, philosophy, mathematics, and science, that provide information of general cultural concern.”
Notice it includes sciences and math. But, most people probably exclude these when they think of the liberal arts, and I think we should, too. This lets us focus on the debate over a softer, generalist education versus a highly technical one that produces immediately marketable skills.
- A list of the many, many fields considered to be within the liberal arts.
Critique and defenses of a liberal arts education –
- A spirited defense of a liberal arts education and what it does for your life – not just your bottom line. Recommended.
- They don’t make less money! Yes, liberal arts grads make less the first few years than grads with other majors, but they catch up over time.
- Old CivCon mtg: Is college still the answer?
- The other side: The liberal arts are in decline, and it’s the schools’ own fault because they have embraced left-wing ideas and curricula, making the degree less and less relevant to real life. Worth debating even if you disagree.
NEXT WEEK: Jim Z. on, The Case For and Against Woodrow Wilson.