Why the Liberal Arts Matter

Posted by Megan on October 23, 2014

Journey to the Centre of York

As some of you might have noticed, there has been a recent eruption in news coverage on the topic of the liberal arts. Thankfully, many people are reaching out to support the many values of a liberal arts degree. Kevin Wong, a Canadian student studying at Princeton University, has this to say:

Blog Graphics (for in the post) (4)

 

Wong also references a study conducted last year by Hart Research Associates which I found to be very interesting: “93 percent of companies agreed with the statement that “a candidate’s demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than their undergraduate major.More than 90 percent of companies say that they’re looking for employees who candemonstrate ethical judgment and integrity; intercultural skills; and the capacity for continued new learning,” and a majority of employers further agree that both ‘field-specific knowledge’ and ‘a broad range of skills and knowledge’ are necessary for long term career advancement. By way of contrast, a meager 16 percent of respondents agreed that “Having knowledge and skills that apply to a specific field or position was sufficient for success in the workplace.”

One of my favourite quotes while I was doing research for this post comes from Keith Wade, President and CEO of Webber International University. In a Huffington Post article he wrote:

Quote reads: and that is one extraordinarily valuable practical benefit of a liberal arts education: knowing what you know (and, conversely, what you do not).

So essentially, what you learn in the liberal arts is far more important than field-specific knowledge and skills in many cases. When I look back at some of the courses I’ve taken thus far in my degree, I have to admit that it was the liberal arts-focused ones that really influenced my education and outlook on life. During your first couple years at York, many programs require mandatory general education in course types such as the humanities and social sciences. It was those such courses in my first year which directly impact how I interact with my major-specific courses. (I’m a Psychology student.)

The two courses that I decided to take were Intro to Religion (now The Nature of Religion, HUMA 1860) and Reasoning about Social Issues (MODR 1730). I took the first because as a questioning agnostic, I wanted to have a stronger knowledge base in religion so I could better understand my peers. I had grown up in a relatively un-diverse city and I knew moving to the city was going to expose me to lots of people from backgrounds much different than my own. I took the second course because of my own inner passion for social justice. In the end I found the first course a little dry but it helped me achieve better understanding about religion as a whole. MODR 1730 was great and it focused on reasoning skills that, to this day, I still actively use.

A word cloud around Social Media.
The liberal arts helps us better navigate through all this. Image Source.

Too many of us take information, whether it be from news channels or online articles, commercials or textbooks, and we do not question it. If it sounds realistic, we believe it is. However, when you stop and think about that, it makes sense why a liberal arts degree is the way to go. If we don’t challenge and think critically about the world around us, how can we innovate and improve ourselves? Liberal arts degrees offer a “2-for-1”, not only do they challenge your core beliefs and make you a better person, but they also prepare you to be a well-rounded employee; one who can really make a difference. That’s not to say that other degree types don’t matter, because obviously they do matter. But the liberal arts matter too. Let’s stop the shaming that surrounds these degrees and be supportive of individuals who want to follow their passions. Here are some skills I have gained and built on from liberal arts courses:

  • Analysis and critical thinking
  • Higher emotional intelligence
  • Broader world knowledge

If you are considering pursuing a degree in the liberal arts field at York, I strongly encourage you to read the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS) About page as it focuses on the many of benefits of Liberal Arts. You can also read some great statistics to see why York is a Canadian leader in the Liberal Arts. Take the next step by reading more about our many programs on our Future Students website. Glendon also offers a variety of liberal arts degrees.

As always if you have any questions or comments, feel free to sign off below!

-M

 

Megan
Megan

Megan is a third-year Psychology student. Follow her on her journey of self-development as she explores and ventures through campus.

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  • Megan
    Megan

    You’re welcome! What you wrote really resonated with my article, so I was more than happy to include it.

  • hkeithwade

    Thanks for the cite. Always gratifying to know folks are reading these! @hkeithwade

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