Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Mythologies About the Liberal Arts Continue to Fall

 By Dr. William Vaughan, Core Director, Ashland University


As we all know, one of the goals of our liberal arts core curriculum is to get students to engage in critical thinking and develop essential competencies of the wise person.  To act rationally often involves subjecting long held viewpoints to critical scrutiny, and learning how to question the foundation of ideas that often have mythological standing.  Interestingly enough, the need to demythologize established opinion about things often includes long-held opinions about the liberal arts themselves, namely the idea that one "cannot do anything" with a liberal arts degree, or that the skills and competencies of liberal arts education are not in demand.  It takes the skills of liberal arts thinking to burst the mythologies that surround liberal arts study at the university.

A recent report from the national Center for Higher Education Management Systems, in conjunction with the Association of American Colleges and Universities, works toward providing empirical data assisting the task of dismantling the mythologies that often accompany references to the liberal arts.  The comprehensive report shows that employers desire students with liberal arts backgrounds, that employers think general institutional university level critical thinking skills are more important than their undergraduate major, that liberal arts grads are the key to multiple essential professions, that more liberal arts and science majors attain advanced degrees, and the liberal arts majors close earnings gaps with professional majors the further one projects in the future.

This report, and others like it, will be the centerpiece for Ashland University's upcoming review of its undergraduate core curriculum.  Our university must make decisions that are based in national data and are consistent with current trends - and many of those trends consistently show the centrality and continuing importance of the liberal arts.

 Click here for an overview of the survey results.

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