Defend the Liberal Arts
Defend the Liberal Arts
The liberal arts and sciences are being devalued and support for them is in jeopardy. In a time when people are concerned about practicality and change is both rapid and global, the teaching of the liberal arts becomes more relevant, not less. Making an education with a foundation in the liberal arts widely accessible will help ensure that we have a future citizenry and workforce that is analytical, innovative, curious, civically engaged, and humane.
This is where you come in. Stand up and make your voice heard.
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Why do the Liberal Arts Matter?
An education in the liberal arts and sciences is a life-long endeavor with the goal of developing the whole person in the context of the larger global society. The skills and knowledge gained through coursework and research in the arts and sciences bring about the capability to effectively communicate and persuade, the ability to think critically and agilely while solving complex problems, an understanding of the past as a key to understanding the present and improving the future, the capacity to function effectively across languages and cultures, and a deep and abiding appreciation of art and the world of ideas.
But an education in the arts and sciences provides more than just a broad set of skills – it can also impact your life journey and the world at-large.
Don't just take our word for it
See what others in the media are saying about the value of a liberal arts education.
Political and business leaders tend to value activities that bring easily monetized, short-term rewards. As a broader society though, and in our individual lives and communities, we recognize that making a quick buck is not the highest value. Genuine, long-term, shareable value comes from engaging with and understanding a broad array of areas of endeavor as practiced in a variety of times and places. The yield of these areas of study – history, art, literature, and philosophy, among others – cannot immediately be quantified or charted. These areas of learning help us see ourselves and others in better light, and produce individual and collective achievements of lasting value.
"Political and business leaders will not promote, value, or fund these things unless we demand that they do so. But if a society does not value the broad liberal arts and sciences, it is doomed to irrelevance and decay. For what shall it profit a society to make the trains run on time, if there's nowhere worth going?"
—Prof. Avery Kolers
Avery Kolers is a Professor of Philosophy and the President of the UofL chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). The AAUP is open to all who are invested in teaching and research in higher education.
There's a market for liberal arts graduates
Employers show a vested interest in liberal arts and sciences graduates, and the reason can be found in the philosophy of a liberal arts education – the development of the whole person. Liberal arts majors are flexible, adaptable and able to learn new skills quickly. The education acquired through the liberal arts and sciences is transferable to a wide variety of careers and occupations.
That Liberal Arts Degree Has Become Tech's Hottest Ticket
Tech Companies are Hiring More Liberal-Arts Majors than You Think
Washington Post, 8/26/2015
Forget the MBAs. Hire Liberal Arts Majors
The ancient Greeks, creators of the first democracy, put forth the idea that the liberal arts (artes liberales) are those areas of study “worthy of a free person.” As a member of a free and democratic society, building a foundation in the arts and sciences is an individual’s means to become an informed, active and engaged citizen. Collectively, a healthy democracy depends on these very attributes.
What the ‘Liberal’ In ‘Liberal Arts’ Actually Means
Washington Post, 4/2/2015
Starving for Wisdom
New York Times, 8/16/2015
Richard Cohen: The Actual Value of A College Education
Washington Post, 10/6/2014
Perspectives on the Liberal Arts
In the College of Arts & Sciences, we know that an education in the liberal arts and sciences is key to an enriched life and an engaged citizenry. Read the perspectives of faculty, students, and alumni from across the College on the impact of the liberal arts and sciences on themselves and the world at-large.
Associate Professor, Department of English
“Specializing in African American literature, I am continually reminded that education has not always been a right and that its benefits have been difficult, even impossible, for many to achieve. Though the literacy skills that Frederick Douglass fought to master may seem a far stretch from a college-level course in Milton or advanced calculus, his account of his defiant embrace of learning suggests otherwise. Douglass connected his growing proficiency in reading and writing with a growth in consciousness and an uplifting of his soul – ‘the light of truth only by which men [and women] can be free.’”
Professor, Department of Biology
“With natural selection as a theoretical and conceptual platform, so many hitherto unconnected, disparate observations come together in a coherent manner – I see it in the evolution class I teach at UofL. When a student truly "gets" these ideas, things make sense in a way they never did before.”
Dawne Gee (Biology ’86; Communication ’93)
News Anchor, WAVE-3
“Technical skills can be learned once you are hired, but civic and social engagement along with analytical problem-solving skills are fostered immediately by the setting and variety of subjects offered in a liberal arts education.”
Chair, Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences
“It takes time for students to figure out how to change the world – I hope that a narrow definition of “practical education” does not get in their way. By continuing to promote and nurture the liberal arts for all college students, we keep high quality public education available to everyone, and our community, our state, and our country will be the better for it.”
Assistant Professor, Department of Comparative Humanities and Middle East & Islamic Studies Programs
“We should remember that education is not just a pursuit that one uses to get started in a career; education first and foremost should be regarded as a driving force that continues to form and invigorate our life. Let’s not forget that countless college students who graduated with degrees in humanities and social sciences hold successful careers in politics, medicine, creative professions, law, media, education, business and international relations, the arts, public service, and so forth.”
Chair, Department of Philosophy
"There are three ways that an education in the liberal arts and sciences matters. First, it gives us a greater capacity for understanding ourselves. Second, it expands our understanding of the natural and social worlds and our relationship to both. And third, it provides the sorts of knowledge and skills for the kinds of intellectual and skillful creativity, responsiveness, and adaptability that will be an advantage in a globalized, dynamic, and rapidly changing, economy. In short, a liberal arts education lays the foundation to a collectively fulfilling form of human life.”
Associate Professor, Department of Political Science
“The importance of an education in the liberal arts and sciences is not a new idea. In founding the nation, leaders like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams took concrete steps toward recognizing general education as essential to the well-being of a republican government. The common goal of these founders was to foster a citizenry that understands its own history, thinks critically about issues of public concern, appreciates diverse cultures, and expresses its beliefs without squelching the views of others.”
Chair, Department of English
“The student well-versed in grammar could feel confident writing or speaking to his peers – or superiors. Instruction in logic allowed competing evidence to be weighed before taking action. Rhetoric (defined by Aristotle as “the art of persuasion”) was the most revered of the classical liberal arts, for the individual who understands what will move a particular audience to action wields an immense power. Rhetoric, logic, and grammar may look like antiquated terms, but the skills of clear, effective, and persuasive communication continue to be the most marketable – and transferable – ever taught.”
Senior, Student Government Association president
“Whether you conduct chemical or biological research, debate the political and cultural underpinning of Sino-Japanese relations, or seek to conjure the same emotions that Picasso sought during his ‘Blue Period,’ you would be unlikely to do this without undertaking a liberal arts education.”
Assistant Professor, Department of History
“It is certainly true that America needs more engineers, computer scientists, and mathematicians. Yet we also need people who think critically, communicate clearly and effectively, and are adept at making sense of disparate information – the liberal arts develops these skills with unique ability.”
In the Media
Meet the parents who won’t let their children study literature
The Washington Post, 9/2/2016
What’s the value of teaching the liberal arts?
See All You Can Do with a Degree in the Liberal Arts
My College Guide, 2013
NEH & Quotes on the Humanities
National Endowment for the Humanities
Why critics are wrong about liberal arts degrees
Enough with trashing the liberal arts. Stop being stupid.
Washington Post, 3/5/2016
Higher Education Is More Than A ‘Return on Investment’
Washington Post, 3/14/2013
Even in the age of STEM, employers still value liberal arts degrees
NY Daily News, 4/4/2016
What is the Value of an Education in the Humanities?
Viewpoint: 4 reasons the liberal arts degree is underrated
USA Today, 8/21/2015
2 College Presidents, on Higher Education
New York Times, 7/29/2015
New College Grads: Who Employers Want To Hire
CBS News, 1/20/2015
The 10 Skills Employers Most Want In 2015 Graduates
Liberal Arts Majors Are 'The Most Desirable Employees'
There Is Value in Liberal Arts Education, Employers Say
U.S. News, 9/22/2014
Employees Who Stand Out
Why Top Tech CEOs Want Employees with Liberal Arts Degrees
Fast Company, 8/28/14
We Don’t Need More STEM Majors. We Need More STEM Majors with Liberal Arts Training
Washington Post, 2/18/2015
Why I Was Wrong About Liberal-Arts Majors
The Wall Street Journal, 6/1/2016
Phi Beta Kappa Society
National Arts & Sciences Initiative
The arts and sciences are learning for all of life. They create opportunity, drive innovation, and invest in America. You can make the case:
Six Reasons the Arts & Sciences are Key