Confronting the Liberal Arts Conundrum

The need for more Americans to gain a college degree in order to obtain better jobs has become an important national mantra. But I worry that ill-conceived responses to the problem may be leading us down a short-term path that weakens U.S. global competitiveness.

Since the beginning of this country, higher education was built on the foundation of liberal education — a broad curriculum spanning art, history, literature, mathematics, philosophy, sciences and social sciences, that is intended to prepare an individual to think for him or herself, engage in civic life, and continue to learn through a lifetime. But this vital liberal arts tradition is under attack, directly by elected officials and indirectly by a focus on creating hyper-vocational, reductionist educational programs that aim to prepare students for one particular career immediately post-graduation.

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