1 Running Head: Benefits Of A Liberal Arts Curriculum

The Benefits of a Liberal Arts Curriculum Brad Miller The George Washington University EDUC 283/Opinion Paper 2/Draft 1

2 The Benefits of a Liberal Arts Curriculum Throughout much of the history of higher education it has been suggested that the college curriculum should better educate students for specific career paths. This thought continues today and as society demands more from higher education in the form of career skills, institutions are forced to reflect on what type of education they want their students to receive. It is my opinion that the best curriculum is one that stresses the classical liberal arts. In the following paragraphs I will demonstrate how a classic liberal arts curriculum helps students think more analytically and how the increasingly interconnected world requires a broader education. I will share how a liberal arts curriculum helps students think beyond their careers to find meaning in life. Finally, I will examine how a liberal arts curriculum is the best preparation for future careers. In his article, Colleges Must Reconstruct the Unity of Knowledge, Vartan Gregorian describes the important role colleges play in providing students with a safe environment to question information as a safeguard against extremist ideologies. (Gregorian 2004) For some students, the college classroom will be their last encounter with radical opinions. Colleges have a unique opportunity to counsel students in how best to form a well-thought out response to such opinions. This requires equipping students with the appropriate tools to gather information and analyze their thoughts to better form their own opinions. (Gregorian 2004) A classic curriculum provides students with these abilities. I believe a classic curriculum is best for students in that it trains the brain to analyze a topic for further investigation. Before a student can understand complex ideas they must first be equipped with the tools of that lead them to this understanding; which a general liberal arts curriculum provides (Yale College, 1829). A

3 classic curriculum teaches students how to further investigate a topic. It teaches them how to question an unfamiliar thought and form a personal opinion based off analytical reflection, an essential skill in today’s world of diverse and radical opinions. The classic curriculum is best for students in that it provides a broad understanding of the increasingly complex and interconnected world. Technology has made communication between cultures possible and the global market has required this communication to take place. Students that depart from their career-oriented focus to further investigate the many cultures and communication styles of this world will find such departures a boon to future career development. Conversely, if students focus solely in career-oriented studies, they will not develop the ability to determine the relation of their field to other disciplines, hindering their ability to relate with other cultures and people (Gregorian, 2004). The classical curriculum prepares students for the interconnectedness of the world and future career interactions. A college degree has become a prerequisite for most desirable entry level jobs. This places added value on the degree rather than the means to receiving it. Since society has stressed the importance of a college degree, students often rush through their education neglecting to use their college experience as a means to personal improvement. For some students, this is necessary because of their financial background. The quicker they receive their college degree, the quicker they can develop earning power. However, a college education should provide more than just a career, it should provide an understanding of how to find meaning in life and function in society (Gregorian, 2004). A liberal arts curriculum provides the college degree which society has deemed necessary

4 for a future career. More importantly, a liberal arts curriculum allows students to live a life of meaning and find their productive role in society. Another reason the classic curriculum is best for students is that I believe it is the most conducive to future career skills. While many argue that focusing solely on career oriented courses is the best preparation for one’s future career, I find the opposite to be true. Engaging in a curriculum that focuses on basic educational skills such as English, science and mathematics provides students with the essential tools to write, solve problems and analyze data. All of which are skills future employers will require of college graduates. Norean Radke Sharpe and Gordon Prichett, in their article Business Curricula Should Include Liberal Arts and Vocational Skills, reference a 1959 study by the Ford Foundation which recommended business schools require their students to spend half of their studies in general education. The general education focus, it is believed, will provide students with the essential job skills for future careers (Sharpe, 2004). In my college experience, I changed my major on four different occasions. My first three majors were professionally oriented (pre-med, social work and education). The reason for changing majors was my inability to decide upon a career. During my senior year, I declared a liberal arts major as it was the fastest track to graduation. In my career experience thus far, it has been my liberal arts courses that have been the most beneficial to my career. Through these courses I learned career related skills like the ability to multitask, work within a team and collect and analyze information. I am very pleased with my experience in a liberal arts curriculum and believe it helped prepare me for my career.

5 In conclusion, it is my belief that the best curriculum for students is one that stresses the liberal arts. A liberal arts curriculum trains the brain to analyze a topic for further investigation. This training is essential for student’s ability to accurately grasp complex ideas and skills necessary for future career development. Focusing on a liberal arts curriculum grants students a broad understanding of our complex and interconnected world. This understanding will become even more essential as the marketplace requires employees to understand a broad number of fields. A liberal arts curriculum ensures that students will not receive a one dimensional education which would limit them in their future career, for it is the broad understanding of several fields that will actually best prepare for student’s future careers.

6

References Gregorian, Vartan, (2004). Colleges must reconstruct the unity of knowledge [Electronic Version]. Chronicle of higher education, 39, B12. Sharpe, Radke Norean & Prichett, Gordon. Business curricula should integrate liberalarts and vocational skills [Electronic Version]. Chronicle of higher education, 30, B19. Yale College (1829). The Yale report of 1828. In L. F. Goodchild & H. S. Wechsler (Eds.). (1997). ASHE reader series: The history of higher education (2nd ed. P. 191-199). Needham Heights, MA: Simon & Schuster Custom Publishing. (Originally printed as original papers in relation to a course of liberal education, The American Journal of Science and Arts, 15 (1829, January)).