The Uses of the Liberal Arts

The liberal arts are important. Very important, says incoming Grinnell College President Raynard Kington. According to an article by Scott Jaschik in Inside Higher Education:

While some liberal arts colleges are adding more business or career-oriented majors, Kington doesn’t favor such an approach for Grinnell. He noted that the college has debated the idea many times over the years, going back to when land-grant universities were created with a more practical orientation than that of liberal arts colleges. But with “people living longer and having multiple careers,” Kington said he believes students are better off with writing and other communication skills, quantitative literacy and “a broad understanding of the world and how it got there,” plus the imagination to think about how the world might improve than they would be with a more career-oriented undergraduate experience.

New graduates of liberal arts colleges may “have fewer technical skills as they walk out the door,” but they will be better suited for careers “in the long run,” he said.

While many colleges try to add vocational majors in order to appear practical and career-focused, in the long run this actually makes the careers of graduates much more difficult. Graduates only know how to do one particular thing; they don’t have the knowledge and skills to adapt to likely changes.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer