The Value of a Liberal Arts Education

Peter Drucker wrote the following more than half a century ago in his book his Landmarks of Tomorrow:

Since we live in an age of innovation, a practical education must prepare a man for work that does not yet exist and cannot yet be clearly defined. To be able to do this a man must have learned to learn. He must be conscious of how much there is still to learn. He must acquire basic tools of analysis, of expression, of understanding. Above all he must have the desire for self-development.

This is quoted in an article by university dean Hunter Baker which concludes as follows:

Finally, to return to the issue of liberal arts majors where we began, it is time we stopped treating them as though they were merely aesthetic in value. The student who has taken the time to read and understand Shakespeare’s plays and the novels of Jane Austen and Fyodor Dostoevsky as part of an English literature major is no one to be taken lightly or dismissed as some kind of throwback relic. She is a person who is capable of sustaining attention and learning what she needs to as her life and career develop.

Click through to read the rest in The Federalist. And see also Leah Libresco’s post here at Patheos on the president’s speech which prompted the above.



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  • Enopoletus Harding

    Dostoevsky might have written literature, but it wasn’t in English.

    • James F. McGrath

      Yes, it is an oddity that many societies have that “English” (insert any other language here) includes “literature” in translation.

  • texcee

    I have a B.A. in European History with a second major in English Literature, plus have done graduate work in history. Ever since I graduated in 1976, I’ve heard the old “you want fries with that?” joke. Ha-ha. The fact of the matter is, I have a better grasp on a wider range of academia than those who took specialty degrees. Yes, they know tons more than I do about electrical engineering or computers, but try to find one who knows the difference between Manet and Monet. Try to discuss how Shakespeare’s Birnham Wood influenced Tolkein’s Fangorn Forest. Have a conversation of how the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914 was the direct cause of the Arab Spring today. Most of them will just give you a blank look. So, yes, I’m proud of my humble, lowly liberal arts degree. It has been the launching pad that opened the whole world up to me. And, no, I don’t want fries with that.