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View Diary: Case for a Liberal Arts Education (140 comments)

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  •  yikes--and "Reading in the Library" is surely (7+ / 0-)

    going to get a potential employer's interest up.  

    Unfortunately, as long as college degrees are still a measure of accomplishment and what most employers consider a basic requirement--as opposed to say, reading in the library--we are forced to work within that paradigm.

    I agree with others here that a liberal arts education is now being marginalized--which is unfortunate.  We're not opening minds--we're training workers.

    If the plutocrats begin the program, we will end it. -- Eugene Debs.

    by livjack on Thu Oct 25, 2012 at 05:59:22 AM PDT

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    •  Love it (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Randtntx, No Exit, Sparhawk

      The whole point of going to school is to learn something.  If what you are learning doesn't get you a job, then the goal is simply to make you think better.  And to think better, the process usually involves exposing yourself to someone who thinks very well.  And those people usually wrote books.

      Therefore, if you want to think well, you must read.  There is absolutely NO reason to spend go-into-debt-slavery bucks for that kind of reading.  I am 63.  I have met quite a few people in life.  The folks who impress me are the readers.  The guys with the fancy degrees are usually walking examples of trained incapacity.  Most of them buy books and think it is the same as reading books.  It isn't.

      •  I totally agree that reading is key. I know for (3+ / 0-)

        a fact that it is how I acquired the majority of my knowledge--and continue to acquire it--every day.  

        If the plutocrats begin the program, we will end it. -- Eugene Debs.

        by livjack on Thu Oct 25, 2012 at 06:47:21 AM PDT

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      •  but you don't know what you don't know (9+ / 0-)

        The thing is that what a school environment provides is not only a set of books, but which books you didn't even know you should have read. And then it provides an environment where you constantly have to defend and refine your thinking in front of a teacher who is giving you constant critiques of your arguments.

        autodidacts frequently won't admit it or frequently don't even know it, but the fact is that many of hem are intellectually lazy, because they think they've read a few books and so they "get it." And many of them (and this is true of formally educated liberal arts majors, too) consciously or unconsciously avoid what they're uncomfortable with studying, so they never pushed their own boundaries.

      •  Based on my experience (12+ / 0-)

        I did lots of reading before getting to college.  In college I felt I was getting my mind expanded so fast it hurt.

        Before college, I read books the same old way.  I brought my perspective, my usual way of doing things, and what I got from the books was bounded.  Bounded by my expectations, by my fear of things outside my experience, by my limited personal philosophy (despite a lot of effort put into developing my personal philosophy), by my singular point of view.

        In college, I got 20 times as much from every book I read.  We discussed them, challenged my interpretations and perceptions.  I was exposed to other people's interpretations and the ideas the books inspired in them.  So much more.

        Now, I still get a lot more out of reading, though not as much as when I had those other active minds discussing it with me.  And while I have great respect for people I meet with vocational degrees, conversation with them is an exercise in adjusting scope, cutting out whole swathes of interest, understanding, and awareness.

        I greatly value my liberal arts education.  We live only one life. An enriched life is worth going into debt for.

      •  And furthermore: (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Randtntx, MariaSquared, Sparhawk
        Therefore, if you want to think well, you must read.  There is absolutely NO reason to spend go-into-debt-slavery bucks for that kind of reading.
        If you go into debt-slavery in order to "learn how to think," then shouldn't you get an F?  In "thinking?"

        My head says "No" but my heart says "Yes". And then my liver says "What?" and my butt's all like "Farrrrrrt" --jbou

        by Caj on Thu Oct 25, 2012 at 07:02:03 AM PDT

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        •  problem is (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          kyril, elfling, Killer of Sacred Cows

          some things are worth spending money on. Money is just a tool to help make your life better. In my opinion, there are some things worth going into debt for. Diamond rings, fancy cars....not so much.... I refuse to go into debt for that. An education though....I think so.

          •  Two problems with this argument (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Sparhawk

            First, it's not simply a matter of whether you spend money, but how much.  Of course it's worth spending money on an education, but how much?   $100,000?  $30,000?  

            Are you willing to be in debt until you're 70, and unable to buy a house---is that worth a college education?  Bearing in mind that many of the things you learn there, you could learn elsewhere for far less money?

            Second of all, if the education by itself was worth the price tag, then why the call for student loan reform and reducing the costs of college?  If it was worth the money, why complain?

            College has always carried with it the expectation that the education and degree will confer a higher salary that offsets the cost.  Even if that isn't the reason why you go to college, it's a necessary condition, part of the calculus of college costs.  And that is what determines how much is too much money---the degree to which you will suffer on account of borrowing/spending that much money.

            My head says "No" but my heart says "Yes". And then my liver says "What?" and my butt's all like "Farrrrrrt" --jbou

            by Caj on Thu Oct 25, 2012 at 08:31:22 AM PDT

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            •  I don't have the power to determine the price-tag. (5+ / 0-)

              I have in mind specific colleges that carry a specific cost. So while it is true that I can settle for something less expensive, will I still get the kind of education that I am seeking? My answer (so far) to that question is no. (BTW, I am not speaking about myself with regards to purchasing an education, i am old and grey).

              You assert that the same things that one learns for a high price tag, one can learn elsewhere. I am not sure that I can agree with that. My own experience at a very large state University is all I need to counter that argument. While it is true that some do very well at large universities I know now that I would have truly benefitted from, and very much enjoyed, a small liberal arts college.

              Your second point makes no sense to me. In some countries high quality educations are free. I would not be opposed to that. I think possibly a more relevant point would be, what do we as a society value and what as a society are we willing to subsidize. We already know that a college education is cheaper that incarceration in our prison systems.....even when compared to an expensive college such as Yale.

              Thanks for your response by the way, this is an ongoing discussion for me as I am in the middle of this issue.

      •  College - you're only paying for the doors (0+ / 0-)

        Their degree will open for you.

        A standing army is like a standing member. It's an excellent assurance of domestic tranquility, but a dangerous temptation to foreign adventure. Elbridge Gerry - Constitutional Convention (1787)

        by No Exit on Thu Oct 25, 2012 at 08:58:11 AM PDT

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    •  We're not opening minds--we're training workers. (4+ / 0-)

      That's a victory for the plutocracy. Why teach Americans critical thinking, philosophy, or fine arts when when can teach them to punch a clock?

      "A cynical, mercenary, demagogic press will produce in time a people as base as itself." - Joseph Pulitzer

      by CFAmick on Thu Oct 25, 2012 at 06:59:12 AM PDT

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      •  Technical workers get that too (0+ / 0-)

        Nearly all four year technical programs require a number of liberal artsy courses in addition to the core technical curriculum.

        "But we know how to think and analyze arguments!" Is the hue and cry from liberal arts advocates. An unquantifiable argument and their only out.

        "Engineers typically make double what a liberal arts major makes" is a strong argument.

        "Liberal arts majors can think better than engineers." is a weak argument.

        (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
        Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

        by Sparhawk on Thu Oct 25, 2012 at 01:38:31 PM PDT

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    •  Then let's call a spade a spade. (0+ / 0-)

      When you shell out $100,000 on a degree you are not buying knowledge.

      You are buying a sheepskin.

      I know many business majors, accounting majors, scientists, and medical professional who also have a deep understanding of Art, History, and Literature.

      Their secret? They read a lot of books and watch a lot of PBS.

      It should not that four years and $100,000 to learn these things!  It's a scam.

      •  I doubt you know them (0+ / 0-)

        seriously.

        There are two kinds of people in this world. The kind who divide the world into two kinds of people, and the kind who don't.

        by upstate NY on Thu Oct 25, 2012 at 04:16:53 PM PDT

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      •  no, you're buying (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        dirkster42

        a way of thinking. For some it's not valuable, for others it's invaluable.

        And you don't learn that from PBS, lol. It's enjoyable to watch their programs and absorb their information or aesthetic, but it's not equivalent to a rigorous Socratic education, not by a long shot.

        I had a so-so liberal arts education because I attended a large research university and didn't know any better. It's only as I've gotten older that I can see what I missed out on.

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