With Liberal Arts Education, Students Can Be More Than Imagined

Mathieu Deflem
www.mathieudeflem.net

This is a copy of a letter to the editor published in The State newspaper, December 16, 2018.

Deflem, Mathieu. 2018. "With Liberal Arts Education, Students Can Be More Than Imagined." Letter to the editor. The State, December 16, 2018.


A crisis in leadership today is demonstrated in more places than a house painted white. Unlike what the deans of some of our University of South Carolina’s colleges may think (The State, Dec. 3, 2018), a liberal arts education is not justified because it will make students more likely to get jobs. Though hopefully everybody with a college degree or without will have employment, liberal arts education is about acquiring a broad foundation in knowledge and skills without any career considerations.

Of course, there is a relationship between education and work, but such instrumental considerations (“Will this degree help me get a job?”) are precisely not what the liberal arts are about. Otherwise, a vocational training is much better suited. Besides, job opportunities are not primarily dependent on job seekers but are created by minds much brighter than those found in the institutions of higher education.

The important question for students, therefore, is not why study liberal arts, but why not. The answer is always theirs, but in the liberal arts, they can learn to become somebody not even imagined. Such learning is fun as well as smart, even when it is not always as well compensated as we would hope.

Mathieu Deflem
Columbia

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