The Value of the Liberal Arts Major

As this article from the Baltimore Sun points out, the pop culture ridicule of liberal arts majors as future burger flippers is a myth that is not grounded in anything like fact (just click on the excerpt to go to the full article):

It must be just dumb luck or some sort of freakish anomaly, then, that many of the most successful among us —such as the CEOs of some of our most prestigious corporations — majored in burger-flipping fields. I will not bore you with the list. Just Google “fortune 500 CEO majors” or “successful liberal arts graduates” if you are curious.

Speaking of successful liberal arts grads, two high-achieving sociologists, Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa, measured learning over the course of 2,300 students’ college careers and reached some devastating conclusions. In Academically Adrift, Arum and Roksa show that one-third of the students they studied “did not demonstrate any significant improvement in learning” after four years. That said, they also found that liberal arts majors showed “significantly higher gains in critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing skills over time than students in other fields of study.”

What’s more, the Association of American Colleges and Universities’ 2010 employer survey found that employers rate skills such as written and oral communication, critical thinking, complex problem solving, ethics, teamwork and innovation at the very top of their college graduate wish list. A 2012 survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers had remarkably similar results. Notice that the skills that employers crave correlate closely with those Academically Adrift identifies as the metier of the liberal arts.

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