Thursday, June 4, 2015

In Defense of a Liberal Education

Whenever I’ve been questioned or criticized for studying English in college and not learning a skill or a trade, I always say that I went to college to get an education not a job. I got to read good books, and I learned to communicate. With general education requirements, I also got to study foreign languages, geology, biology, and humanities. And, I got a job anyway. So I was interested when I heard about Fareed Zakaria’s short book In Defense of a Liberal Education.

Among the arguments Zakaria uses to make his case for a liberal education is that it teaches you how to write; it teaches you how to speak, and it teaches you how to learn. If you know how to learn, then the whole world of knowledge is open to you.

Near the end of the book he writes:
“One of the enduring benefits of a liberal education is that it broadens us. When we absorb great literature, we come face to face with ideas, experiences, and emotions that we might never otherwise encounter in our lifetime. When we read history, we encounter people from a different age and learn from their triumphs and travails. When we study physics and biology, we comprehend the mysteries of the universe and human life. And when we listen to great music, we are moved in ways that reason cannot comprehend. This may not help make a living, but it will help make a life. We all play many roles, professional and personal, in one lifetime. A liberal education gives us greater capacity to be good workers but it will also give us the capacity to be good partners, friends, parents, and citizens.”

Next time someone asks you why you studied humanities or art history or archaeology instead engineering or nursing, or anything else, you can give her this book and help her gain a little better understanding of your education.

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