The Liberal Arts Are Very Practical

One popular fad in higher education policy has to do with making college more sensible and focusing on jobs, particularly the jobs of “the future.”

Well no, writes former Procter & Gamble chairman A.G. Lafley. As he explains:

Lots of self-help books, pundits and well-intentioned family, friends and advisors encourage college students to “major in something practical,” apparently assuming that the liberal arts don’t meet that standard. But as someone who spent many years assessing the skills and talents of management prospects for a wide range of disciplines and industries, I know that the candidates who were the most attractive manager prospects were those with a well-exercised mind, leadership potential, and the passion to make a difference. These success factors can be cultivated in many ways, but all are best developed by taking courses in the liberal arts and sciences.

Lafley, who ran the $138 billion multinational corporation from 2000 until last year, goes on to explain that businesses are looking for employees who can adapt to changes in the workplace and their jobs. “By studying art, science, the humanities, social science, and languages, the mind develops the mental dexterity that opens a person to new ideas,” he said. “[This] is the currency for success in a constantly changing environment.”

Lafley earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Hamilton College in 1969.

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