Recently in the Financial Time’s John Kay explored the benefits of a liberal education. He argues that with the advent of technology and in particular of search functions, it is the ability to sift and synthesise information that is an essential workplace skill – one that a liberal arts education develops within it’s graduates.
Kay states “writing newspaper columns, running businesses, managing assets and advising clients in legal disputes are activities whose primary demand is synthesis. The ability to make connections between disparate sources of information is more critical than detailed familiarity with any specific source.”
In the USA the liberal arts are under attack with subjects such as history and English in decline – some states are severely reducing their taxpayer funds available for liberal arts subjects.
Fareed Zakaria based in New York, is the author of a new book “In defence of a Liberal Education”. He grew up in India and is a CNN anchor reporting on international affairs . “I get it,” he writes, recalling the atmosphere in India which was obsessed with getting a skills-based education, however the skills developed by a liberal arts education “how to write clearly, how to express yourself convincingly, and how to think analytically” are, he suggests, immensely valuable in their own right.
He does not dismiss skills based education. “Engineering is a great profession, but key value-added skills you will also need are creativity, lateral thinking, design, communication, storytelling, and, more than anything, the ability to continually learn and enjoy learning” -precisely the gifts of a liberal education.
Kay concludes his article with the view that in a an ever-changing world, job specific skills may become outdated within a few years, so one aspect of education is to “equip students to enjoy rewarding employment and fulfilling lives in a future environment whose demands we can neither anticipate nor predict.”
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