So I recently wrote about following your heart when pursuing education. I mentioned that we should not let the fear of practicality paralyze us, but follow our hearts where it would take us. It certainly sounds all good and ideal, but I’d bet that you read that, nodded furiously in agreement… And went back to pursuing the most practical course in your institution (or at least, two-thirds of you would).
I recently found an article that would, IMO, be far more convincing. The author’s argument goes as such: Liberal Arts degrees are useless (but not in the way most people think they are), and the people who pursue them are better off precisely because they are useless.
It’s a strange statement to make, but hear him out – I think he’s on to something big. Here is the article: Liberal Arts, and the Advantages of Being Useless.
Now, I know that the title might seem very like one of those over-the-top defensive pieces that try a bit too hard to defend the Liberal Arts degree. Here are some quotes I picked out from the article that blew my mind – and hopefully they will convince you to take at least take a look, and give it some serious thought. (the bolds are mine)
This, I think, is why a Liberal Arts degree is useless: it requires some creativity and unguided exploration after you get it in order for you to figure out what you want to do with it. And it requires these things because you can’t read the name of a good paying job off of a Liberal Arts degree. If someone asks a Liberal Arts major what she is going to do with her degree, the best she can say is, “I’m not quite sure, but I’m pretty certain that I have roughly the same chance as any other major for getting a job and that by the middle of my career I’ll have an income that is just as good, if not better, than people with those other degrees.” Not the best sound bite. But it has the virtue of being true.
How can you get very far, If you don’t know Who You Are? How can you do what you ought, If you don’t know What You’ve Got? And if you don’t know Which To Do Of all the things in front of you, Then what you’ll have when you are through Is just a mess without a clue Of all the best that can come true If you know What and Which and Who. – Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh, “Cottleston Pie” (1982)
In the coming decades, success will be defined by the ability to understand the complex problems that customers face, and the ability to solve these problems elegantly. Technology development is important, as is finance, manufacturing,and distribution. But these areas are not core competencies for the industry leaders. The next billion-dollar company will be run by history majors who are skilled in wading through a massive jumble of facts and who have the ability to distill these facts down to a clear set of objectives that a global team can fulfill. – Tom Gillis, Forbes Magazine
“So let me leave you with a fairer question. This a question to which all majors, from any college, can give a decent answer. It is a question that does not stack the deck against Liberal Arts majors. And the answer to this question is an answer you might give when people ask the more conventional “What are you going to do with your degree?” question. The question is this:“What kind of person is your degree going to help you be?” If you’re a Liberal Arts major, you have a quick and ready answer: “I am going to be a more reflective and engaged individual, and an active, responsible contributor to my community capable of succeeding in leadership positions.”
What do you think – yay or nay for the Arts? Share your thoughts below!