Over two years ago, I spoke in a Perspective about ways university degrees grounded in the liberal arts were denigrated in some loud quarters as impractical. It’s true that the cost of higher education in the United States, which has risen by 400% since the 80’s, must be fixed. It’s also true that as preparation for a particular job, vocational training is useful.
But negative perceptions about well-rounded university degrees are beginning to wane in the face of an economy that needs adaptable and inventive leaders with strong learning habits and skills. Precisely for practical and economic reasons, a university education with a solid foundation in the humanities is more essential now than ever before. Ideally, graduates become confident communicators practiced in writing, researching, and interrogating possibilities for improvement in their communities. They know how to learn whatever is necessary to adapt and innovate in a changing society and workplace.
While acknowledging in a recent meeting that vocational training may provide a first job, Trustees at Rockford University said that a good liberal arts foundation prepares citizens for the dozen jobs an average American has in their lifetime. As is now becoming clearer to communities and employers nationwide, vocational and professional training can be provided simultaneously: it’s not an either/or proposition.
I’m Bill Gahan, and that’s my perspective.