North Texas Daily

Column: Liberal arts degrees indispensible to U.S. jobs

Column: Liberal arts degrees indispensible to U.S. jobs

April 02
00:04 2015

Dalton LaFerney / Views & Digital Editor

I got an email this week from my high school journalism advisor Suzanne Bardwell, who inspired my choice to major in journalism, with a link to a Fareed Zakaria column discussing the flaws and overemphasis of the science, technology, engineering and mathematics  (STEM) college education in the United States.

He mentioned a couple key political figures, even President Obama, advocating for an increase in STEM education as well as a  denounciation of liberal arts courses like art history or philosophy. In the column, Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott is quoted.2_dalton_web

Dalton LaFerney

“Is it a vital interest of the state to have more anthropologists?” he said. “I don’t think so.”

How naive of him, a politician — politics being a field of communication and critical outside­the-­box thinking. He’s also one of those lawmakers who is overcritical of state teachers. In 2011, Scott signed a law mandating school districts create teacher evaluation systems that would determine teacher pay — ratings based on test scores, among other things.

While Scott is not alone in his idea of American education, the flaws common today are embodied in his record and rhetoric.

By relying on STEM education as our primary source for the future American workforce, liberal arts degrees — humanities — will be underfunded and therefore unimportant, a tragedy to the United States. Liberal arts students contribute more than they are credited for.

Humanities studies are what fuel passion and love for the world. For example, I was instructed to visit the Dallas Museum of Art for my core art appreciation course. There, I saw “The Icebergs” by Frederic Edwin Church. When I say I gazed at it for half an hour, I tell you I counted. I owe my attraction to its beauty because of the liberal arts courses I’ve had to take.

I like to imagine a college education in layers. The foundation is our humanities courses — the philosophies, arts, histories, etc. Those courses help us to grasp who we are and what we are as a society. In the arts, you learn to see the symbolism in life because all aspects of life are in some way connected,  through time or ethnicity.

With humanities, we learn to question everything. Liberal arts condition us to love. We can be a technically dominant society, but if we lose our humanities we lose our passion and our romance for life itself.

At UNT, students are fortunate to attend a university that embraces creativity. It even markets “creativity” to prospective students. A healthy mixture of liberal arts and STEM is what’s needed across this country. What’s unnecessary and dangerous is for America to accentuate one brand of thinking or education.

We mustn’t forget to think, to imagine. What if the United States had never envisioned racial equality or manifest destiny? Or if President Kennedy hadn’t stretched out for the moon. Where would we be? More importantly, where are we going? To a future of bland uniformity, or to a horizon of wonder and passionate achievement? The choice is up to us, the students. Our own future is what’s at stake.

About Author

Dalton LaFerney

Dalton LaFerney

Dalton is the editor of the Daily.

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