Three cheers for the liberal arts from a somewhat-less-than-objective-but-interesting-nonetheless source

by Ken Anselment on April 29, 2013

I am posting to Admissions@Lawrence with some trepidation after my colleague, Andrea Hendrickson, wrote such a beautiful piece last week about how to tell colleges you’ve decided to go elsewhere. (If you haven’t read it, I encourage you to do so. It’s a gem.)

I feel like a museum curator, who, charged with relocating the “Mona Lisa,” has replaced it with “Dogs Playing Poker.”

The following is one of those more utilitarian pieces you would expect to see pop up just two days before the National Candidates Reply Date. (That’s May 1, for those of you who haven’t circled, underlined, drawn stars around it—or all of the above—on your calendar.)

Repeating a theme we have addressed here often: the liberal arts, it turns out, are in demand by employers. Our friends at the Association of American Colleges & Universities* recently released a report digesting their findings from a national survey of 318 business and non-profit leaders: It Takes More than a Major: Employer Priorities for College Learning and Student Success

*Bias alert: AAC&U is a nearly 100-year-old organization dedicated to supporting liberal arts education.

You can probably tell where this is going…

Here are a few key findings:

  1. Nearly all the employers surveyed (93%) say that a “demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than a candidate’s undergraduate major.”
  2. In addition to those three capacities, more than 90% of those surveyed believe it’s important to hire people that demonstrate ethical judgment and integrity, intercultural skills, and the capacity for continued new learning.
  3. This one we really like: When read a description of a 21st-century liberal education, 74% would recommend this kind of education to a young person they know as the best way to prepare for success in today’s global economy.
    • That description, by the way, says: “This approach to a college education provides both broad knowledge in a variety of areas of study and knowledge in a specific major or field of interest. It also helps students develop a sense of social responsibility, as well as intellectual and practical skills that span all areas of study, such as communication, analytical, and problem-solving skills, and a demonstrated ability to apply knowledge and skills in real-world settings.” (We don’t know what the other descriptions read like, so it’s difficult to judge what the comparisons were, but we’re heartened that employers value this type of experience.)

The takeaway?

How about, “Huzzah for the Liberal Arts?”

Which, come to think of it, would have been a better title for this post… if I were posting it in the late 1500s, which is when you may have been more likely to hear an occasional “huzzah!”

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