The field of liberal arts education is constantly being threatened by budget cuts and a general lack of support. It should, however, be a priority rather than a go-to for program cuts.
By Megan Flox-Lambert
People once valued a wellrounded education. Humanities, philosophy, fine arts and social sciences were the keys to understanding one another and the means by which more technical disciplines were able to be nurtured, developed and furthered.
But in recent times, there has been a dramatic shift in the valuation of the liberal arts education. The more fiscally obsessed American society becomes, the more higher education is merely valued in terms of what it is worth, how much money can be earned by attaining it and how soon it can be obtained.
Utah’s own Senator Howard Stephenson (R-Draper) believes that degrees in the realm of liberal arts “lead to nowhere.” Such a dangerous attitude is not only sad, it is tragic.
This does not mean that technical degrees and vocational training are not vitally important. It means that as a society and as a progressing culture, there is an obligation to make available to everyone an
education that provides practical skill in conjunction with an elemental understanding of the human condition.
The world would be barren if the social sciences, humanities, philosophy and art were no longer a part of the educational dialogue. How much could medical professionals accomplish if they did not understand the emotional components of the human existence? How ineffective would economists be if they did not understand the fundamentals of human behavior? How impactful would the construction
trades be if there were no visionary fine arts-trained architects drawing up the plans?
Studies show a consistent pattern that students trained in a wider spectrum of disciplines function better in their chosen careers and perform better academically than those who have a narrower focus.
For example, one undergraduate program in particular consistently enables students to score highest on intensely logical law school entrance exams: students who major in Philosophy. The analytical, critical and logical training involved in attaining undergraduate degrees in liberal arts subjects provide a unique kind of skill development that enables deep, powerful understanding of many of the most vital societal structures: medicine, law, teaching and more.
There is a dire problem with those, like Senator Stephenson, who wish to siphon funding away from four-year institutions in favor of more “bankable” technical schools. The very things that define being human are embracing curiosity, having the ability to be emotional while seeking the meaning of those emotions and perpetually working to obtain wisdom. If these kinds of opportunities are removed from higher education, all the traits that make people able to be dynamic culturally and as a species are fundamentally violated.
Education has inherent, innate value and assigning it mere monetary value is insulting. Education’s efficacy cannot, and should not, be measured in pie-charts and diagrams or viewed as items on a budget waiting to be slashed.
Make no mistake, if citizens and students let legislators determine what should be learned based only on what can be gained monetarily, it will not only mean the death of the liberal arts education, but it will mean the death of everything that has made the United States innovative, collaborative and revolutionarily different.