Liberal Education : To Be Or Not To Be? Essay, Research Paper
During a time when unemployment is at its lowest since World War II, one would think that finding a job would be easy. However, at this point in time, applicants for jobs are more qualified than ever. The competition for well-paid jobs is stiff, and in order to get ahead people need not only skill in one certain area, but a general intelligence of many subjects as well. A liberal education provides the general knowledge that gives job applicants an extra edge when applying for a job. With a base of knowledge in the liberal arts and a specialization in a certain area, people prove to be beneficial to employers.
Throughout this paper, I will use the term liberal education not only in describing subjects like English, history, philosophy etc., but as Livingstone describes a liberal education: an education which aims at producing as perfect and complete a human being as may be. In using the term liberal education I expect that all graduates of a liberal arts college have an expertise in rhetoric, as the art of speaking and writing well is a key focus in the curriculum. I will also use the specialized education in reference to Livingstone s definition: an education which aims at earning a living or making money .
Undergraduates pursuing a liberal undergraduate education have an advantage over people with a specialized undergraduate education because liberal education provides a greater versatility in terms of a broader base of knowledge so that finding a job and excelling in different areas is easier.
Training in art of rhetoric, which today is defined as the art of speaking and writing effectively, is a valuable asset for job hunters. Specialized undergraduate curriculums focus less on rhetoric than liberal arts curriculums. A person with training in rhetoric would be hired over another applicant due to their expertise in communicating ideas effectively through speech and writing. Companies aim to employ intelligent people who can express themselves wisely and eloquently because in nearly every profession, writing well and persuading others to one s opinion is essential: scientists have to apply for grants in order to fund their research and experiments; businessmen must present proposals and of course, columnists and authors who have not mastered the skill of rhetoric are less likely to find a job and be successful in terms of status and salary. Ability to express oneself clearly and effectively designates to what level one may raise in the corporate ladder, for people with refined writing skills benefit companies to a large extent, while people with less skill in writing have less influence, and therefore less power.
People with a liberal education are skilled in multiple areas and therefore can be of more benefit to employers. Rather than a specialized study in one area, a liberal education provides students with a broad range of knowledge that attracts employers. As Virtruvius says, liberal education teaches the student the connection between different disciplines. Knowing and realizing the relationship between subjects, an employee can perform a greater number of tasks and learn new ones more rapidly thus being more valuable to a company. Should a man lose his job due to it becoming extinct or other reasons, a liberal education would provide a better cushion to fall back on because of the diversity of subjects studied. For example, if a court stenographer loses his job due to a new audio technology that records and word-processes court proceedings, he would not have to, in a sense, start over for lack of knowledge in other areas. Utilizing his knowledge in rhetoric, philosophy, history, and other humanities, he could find another job without going back to school.
On the other hand, the opposition would report that a liberal education would not benefit many people because a curriculum based on the humanities repels many students. Rather than take courses that disinterest them, students should specialize in subjects they enjoy. One should not waste money on an education that does not focus on one s interests; an education that does not stimulate the student is a failed education. In order to make the most out of undergraduate years, the students should study what interests them.
In rebuttal, a liberal education does not suit every personality or preference. However, in the job market, having a liberal undergraduate education and a specialized graduate education gives people an advantage, for not only are they trained specially in their specific area, but they also have a general knowledge of the liberal arts. Students interested in areas such as technology and sciences should take classes that interest them. However, in addition to the sciences courses, rhetoric classes would prove beneficial even in a scientific line of study. Every occupation entails writing in some way, and sharpening one s writing skills only reaps more benefits when searching for a job. Many people interested in the sciences and technologies specialize during their undergraduate years, and therefore miss out on training in rhetoric. Specialists who take classes to improve writing are better-prepared and more likely for find a job.
Another argument of the opposition: people who start specializing during undergraduate years are better prepared for graduate school. They master and excel in one specific area of study. Whereas, it would take someone with a general undergraduate education a longer time to master a specific area of study because of the attention spent on a broad education during undergraduate years. Instead of spending thousands of dollars on a general education, students could use the four years to specialize in the field that they enjoy. A liberal education may prove beneficial for students who are unsure about their major, but focused students should not waste their time on general education. Students who know what they want to focus on should specialize their education in order to expedite their college time and either start a masters degree or start their careers.
It may take longer for a generally trained undergraduate to specialize in a certain area, but then again, if they are trained in understanding the connection between different areas of study, they may be able to pick up different subjects more quickly. There are really two issues here to refute. First, when studying, why is everything such a rush? People are in a hurry to enter the job force rather than to take their time during their schooling. I suppose the answer to the question is money. While people are in school they pay thousands of dollars and receive very little back in comparison. Once they start working they can begin the payback period. Sadly, those who enter the workforce first do win in the sense that they can start paying back their debt, while the people still in school keep accumulating debt.
In discussing liberal arts training, one assumes that every student who graduates has a well-developed knowledge of all the subjects a liberal education offers. However, it is not fair to assume that every student attending a liberal arts undergraduate school explores each subject extensively and excels in every class. Many students take advantage of the time they spend in undergraduate school by partying on weeknights and coming to class so tired that they cannot concentrate on the lesson, or even worse, they skip class all together. This careless behavior towards schooling hurts not only the students understanding of the material, but their grades as well. It is time that all upperclassmen graduate with honors rather than just slide by. The effect on the community and world would be astounding. Thousands of great minds graduate from college every year and become success stories like Bill Gates. Imagine every college student intellectually on par with the smartest graduate. Our world would be a different place. That is the place to which we should strive, and we have reached out goal when everyone achieves individual excellence.