April 16, 2014

A recent article in “Inside Higher Ed” by Allie Grasgreen gave us some surprising news:

“Liberal arts majors may start off slower than others when it comes to their postgraduate career path, but they close much of the salary and unemployment gap over time, a new report shows. (The report, “How Liberal Arts and Sciences Majors Fare in Employment,” includes U.S. Census data from 2010 and 2011 and is a joint project of AAC&U and the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems.)

By their mid-50s, liberal arts majors with an advanced or undergraduate degree are on average making more money than those who studied in professional and pre-professional fields, and are employed at similar rates. But that’s just one part of the paper’s overall argument that concerns about the value of a liberal arts degree ‘are unfounded and should be put to rest.’

‘That’s a myth out there – that somehow if you major in humanities, you’re doomed to be unemployed for the rest of your life. This suggests otherwise,’ said Debra Humphreys, a co-author of the report and vice president for policy and public engagement at the Association of American Colleges and Universities. ‘That sort of journey to professional success is more of a marathon than a sprint.’”

It’s also important to restate the importance of a good public school education for any student preparing to embark on a rich liberal arts track.

An opinion piece in “THE WASHINGTON POST” a few years ago, “A New Agenda for School Reform,” by Diane Ravitch, offered some excellent advice:

“. . . It is time to change course. To begin with, let’s agree that a good education encompasses far more than just basic skills. A good education involves learning history, geography, civics, the arts, science, literature and foreign language. Schools should be expected to teach these subjects even if students are not tested on them.”

I can imagine Robert Maynard Hutchins applauding in agreement. Hutchins, America’s premier educator and President of the University of Chicago (1929-1945) always advocated a liberal education approach, primarily through a familiarity with “THE GREAT BOOKS.” He maintained that students should become exposed to conflicting ideas in order to weigh and balance those ideas in their own minds. Through contact with exceptional reasoning, Hutchins believed that schools should concentrate on the stimulation of thinking, rather than exclusively on the memorization of the practical. He railed against the continuing practice of converting once-fine universities to, in effect, glorified trade schools.

Memorization and testing do not measure learning and thinking. They merely measure short-term retention. And in this country those rote activities are rapidly eroding whatever future contributions to the advancement of society our young people could achieve!

More on Monday – – – – –

— Bill Walton, Founder of ITC Learning