Liberal arts not luxury learning when balanced

Kylie Lacey's picture
Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Once upon a time, there was little debate about what made up a complete education.

A well-educated person should have read Homer, Virgil, Chaucer and Shakespeare. She should also know something about Caesar, Charlemagne, Peter the Great and Napoleon. She should understand Newton, Darwin, Freud and Einstein, speak a second language, appreciate Beethoven and Matisse, be able to find the standard deviation and, most importantly, write about it all.

The story is told differently today: A college education costs a fortune, and it better translate into a good job and a higher income. The liberal arts are seen as a luxury for the rich, while those serious about their futures are advised to head to the STEM fields -- science, technology, engineering and mathematics -- if they want to have a place in the middle class.

Public colleges and universities are under constant pressure to produce graduates with the right skills to find work right away -- though the definition of the "right skills" keeps changing.

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