The Importance of Liberal Studies in the Digital Age
Updated: Nov 21, 2022
By Rena Justine:
Fewer and fewer college students graduate with a humanities degree. Under 200,000 humanities degrees were recorded in 2020 for the eighth consecutive year. Experts believe this is because today's students want to start working immediately to pay off student loans, which is why they gravitate toward business, health, and engineering-related fields instead. While the number of liberal arts graduates keeps decreasing, it does not remove this degree's importance, especially in this modern age. Here are a few reasons why:
It Teaches In-Demand "Soft Skills"
If there’s one thing that companies consistently look for when hiring people, it is soft skills. Sure, hard skills are needed for the technical know-how of any position. However, soft skills are intangible qualities that go beyond the technical. For example, knowledge of using a certain program is a hard skill, but knowing how to analyze which programs will benefit the company requires critical thinking: that's a soft skill. This is why a modern liberal arts degree puts such an emphasis on developing a well-rounded and customizable soft skillset, which helps students approach problems and tasks differently, nurture interpersonal relationships, and develop creative leadership, all of which can be applied to digital fields.
Thanks to the highly interactive nature of liberal arts and their focus on debating topics among fellow students, liberal arts students develop and continually improve their skills in communication, teamwork, and problem-solving. The degree encourages students to learn how to think rather than what to think, which is what makes it so effective in equipping graduates for later life.
It Complements Technology
At first glance, the fields of STEM and liberal arts seem to directly oppose each other; one deals with human inquiry, creativity, and the arts, while the other focuses on computations, hard facts, and technicalities. This makes it hard to believe that liberal arts actually complement the STEM industry. However, liberal arts graduates provide a depth of knowledge acquired through studying the humanities—philosophy, history, literature, and the arts—all of which explore the human experience and the issues surrounding it. This results in a better understanding of human behavior that can lead to a better technological development.
For instance, a liberal arts graduate’s thinking skills will complement a website developer’s role. A website that works well is good, but it also has to be user-friendly, aesthetically appealing, and interactive for a better experience: areas that liberal arts majors can provide insight to.
It Makes Graduates Adaptable
In this digital age, change is constant. New devices are always in development, and new discoveries are always being made. There’s a constant need to keep up with the changes, something that liberal arts graduates are familiar with. The broad aspect of liberal arts trains students to adapt to rapidly evolving ideas and situations, making them ready to take on any change. Whether this change means adapting to different careers with their soft skills or helping engineers and scientists understand changing human behavior, liberal arts helps people become resilient.
In line with this topic on adaptability, a liberal arts degree can be applied in a multitude of careers. This is mostly because of the degree's comprehensive and far-reaching curriculum, which includes subjects such as English, philosophy, and psychology. These are subjects that help graduates form critical-thinking and problem-solving skills and set them up for a career in nearly any industry. In fact, Alibaba tech company founder Jack Ma gives credit to his educational background in English for helping him establish a business foundation. He said that this is what helped him communicate and understand the world better, serving as an advantage when he was only starting out in the entrepreneurial industry. Today, he is known as a very successful businessman and billionaire who built his career on a liberal arts subject. Liberal arts are too often overlooked despite what they can actually offer the world. With an education in liberal arts, people become adaptable, help with technology, and earn soft skills. While it’s a program that needs time to become visible again, it may just be the answer to changing the world.
Flapper Press welcomes new writer: Rena Justine!
Rena Justine is a teaching consultant who provides guidance to schools across the country. Through her online articles, she hopes to impart her 10 years of experience to help others. She spends most of her free time in the park with her husband and three children.