Posts tagged ‘Liberal arts’

April 29, 2013

The problem with a liberal arts degree is that ‘rigor has weakened’

by Grace

In theory, a college liberal arts degree is a valuable commodity in the job market.  In reality, the way colleges have diluted the curriculum means a liberal arts degree offers little added value in qualifying workers for today’s job market.

Liberal arts skills are profitable for college graduates

It turns out that employers are looking for the skills that liberal-arts studies instill — critical thinking, logical reasoning, clear writing.  College graduates who tested best at liberal-arts skills were “far more likely to be better off financially than those who scored lowest.

The problem is employers have found liberal arts graduatesdidn’t learn much in school’.

… Many liberal-arts graduates, even from the best schools, aren’t getting jobs in large part because they didn’t learn much in school. They can’t write or speak well or intelligently analyze what they read.

The National Association of Educational Progress indicates that literary proficiency among adults with “some” college is declining. Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa, authors of the 2011 book “Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses,” found that 36% of college students made no discernible progress in the ability to think and analyze critically after four years in school.

You can minor in “Social and Economic Justice” without ever studying economics.

For many students, college is a smorgasbord of easy courses chosen for their lack of academic rigor. There is no serious “core curriculum.” Students spend limited time studying. Faculty and administrators make matters worse by allowing students to fill up their time with courses like UNC-Chapel Hill’s “Dogs and People: From Prehistory to the Urbanized Future” and “Music in Motion: American Popular Music and Dance.” When students can get a minor in “Social and Economic Justice” without ever taking a course in the economics department, it’s hardly surprising that businesses aren’t lining up to hire them.

In contrast to liberal arts studies, many STEM and similar vocational majors that focus on teaching specific content have not watered down their curriculum.

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July 25, 2012

Quick takes – CEOs with liberal arts degrees, too many college students not ‘college ready’, & more

by Grace

—  Famous CEOs Who Were Liberal Arts Majors


—   Colleges admit many students who are not “college ready”.  Yeah, we knew that.

2.2 million freshmen started college in the United States last fall, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But if common trends are anything go by, more than a third of them will not have a diploma at the end of it, if indeed, they finish college at all, writes Jenna Ashley Robinson at the Pope Center.

The ACT and the College Board (which administers the SAT) have created benchmarks that offer very clear guidelines for determining whether students are likely to succeed in college and have found that fewer than half of college-bound seniors are prepared for the work ahead of them….

“Sending unprepared students to college only sets them up for failure.”


—  Girls Report Higher Math Anxiety Than Boys, Study Finds (Education Week)

New research from England finds that girls show higher levels of mathematics anxiety than boys, and that this distress is related to diminished performance on math tests. Even so, the study found no gender differences in math achievement, with the researchers suggesting that girls may well have outperformed boys were it not for their anxiety.


 Robbing retirees – The dirty little secret of O’s student-loan fix (New York Post)

President Obama’s much-touted plan to put a one-year freeze on student interest rates was signed into law with great fanfare this month. But the bill’s supporters hadn’t said where the money to subsidize the lower rates would come from.

Columnist Daniel Indiviglio of Reuters dug up the details this week, calling the bill financial “hocus-pocus.” The student-loan scheme was buried in a transportation bill. In it, the government raided its pension-guarantee fund to the tune of $6 billion — although the fund is already running a deficit of $26 billion.

The student-loan bill puts the pension system in jeopardy. To cover future payouts, pension contributions will need to rise by as much as $50 billion a year. The fund’s already broke; now, thanks to this reckless bill, it’s one step closer to total collapse.


—  Over two million K-12 students use online education

Did you know that 30 states allow K-12 students to learn entirely online? Across the country, more than two million K-12 students participate in some form of online education, and nearly 300,000 do so full time, according to John Watson, founder of the Evergreen Education Group, a consulting firm in Durango, Colo.


—  ‘
The U.S. now has 115,000 janitors with college degrees, along with 83,000 bartenders, 80,000 heavy-duty truck drivers, and 323,000 waiters and waitresses.’  (The Daily Beast)

June 5, 2012

The value of a liberal arts major depends on the student and the school

by Grace

I am a fan of a rigorous liberal arts college education, which I think provides a strong foundation for many careers.  However, the value of a liberal arts major depends on several factors, including the student, the curriculum, and/or the prestige of the college.

The student needs to exploit the value of his liberal arts education.

But it’s important to remember that whether you major in accounting at a public university or French at a liberal arts college, it’s up to you to extract the maximum value of your college education.  I don’t think the business major who spends four years getting C’s at a public university (and not doing much else other than having fun) will be in a better post-college career position than the philosophy major at a liberal arts college who pushes herself to learn to think critically, to write compellingly, and to forge relationships with faculty who can offer career guidance and write letters of recommendation.  Those students deserve more credit or blame for the outcomes than their colleges do.

The curriculum needs to have high standards.

Only a rigorous liberal arts curriculum that focuses on teaching critical thinking and communication skills adds real value to a college degree.  Drifting through easy classes where professors give out A’s and B’s as long as students show up and turn in the occasional mediocre assignment will not result in a high-quality education.

A  liberal arts degree from an elite college gets more respect from employers.

Although many selective colleges have also succumbed to grade inflation, at least the degrees they award still serve as markers that many employers use to screen potential employees.  And while there are certainly exceptions, elite schools do generally offer a higher quality education in liberal arts than many less selective institutions do.  The teaching, curriculum, high standards, and peer influence usually make the difference.

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April 11, 2012

Questioning the value of a business major

by Grace

The value of a business major is being questioned by employers, school administrators, and faculty members.

The biggest complaint: The undergraduate degrees focus too much on the nuts and bolts of finance and accounting and don’t develop enough critical thinking and problem-solving skills through long essays, in-class debates and other hallmarks of liberal-arts courses.

Companies say they need flexible thinkers with innovative ideas and a broad knowledge base derived from exposure to multiple disciplines. And while most recruiters don’t outright avoid business majors, companies in consulting, technology and even finance say they’re looking for candidates with a broader academic background.

Bring in the liberal arts disciplines and teach writing!

Schools are taking the hint. The business schools at George Washington University, Georgetown University, Santa Clara University and others are tweaking their undergraduate business curricula in an attempt to better integrate lessons on history, ethics and writing into courses about finance and marketing.

Along with more than 20 other U.S. and European business schools, those institutions met last month at George Washington for a conference to discuss ways to better integrate a liberal-arts education into the business curriculum. It was organized by the Aspen Institute, a nonprofit group with an arm that studies management education and society. Other participants included Franklin & Marshall College, Babson College and Esade, a business and law school at Barcelona’s Ramon Llull University.

Employers want these changes

Such changes should appease recruiters, who have been seeking well-rounded candidates from other disciplines, such as English, economics and engineering. Even financial companies say those students often have sharp critical-thinking skills and problem-solving techniques that business majors sometimes lack.

I’m reminded of this comment by an employer on why a solid liberal arts education is valuable in the business world.

The issue has nothing to do with distribution requirements, number of courses outside the major, etc. Put simply, when we hire an English major from Swarthmore or Williams we know he or she can write. When we hire an Engineering student (for a non-engineering job, by the way) from Cornell or Princeton or JHU we know they won’t need remedial math. When we hire an anthropology major from Chicago or Wellesley we know he or she won’t need help finding Malaysia on a map. We’ve hired kids with undergrad business degrees from a variety of schools (public and private) and found the talent pool decidedly mixed. Entrance requirements to the honors societies are weak; GPA’s are inflated by classes like “Organizational Leadership” or “Healthcare in Society”. And take a 90 page report and create an executive summary of three pages plus two appendices? Forget it.

We’d rather teach a Phi Beta Kappa in History from Amherst what Organizational Leadership is, than have to teach the Beta Alpha Psi from XYZ business program who Mao was and why you need to understand Communism in order to write a business plan for a product launch for our Beijing office.

Related:  Liberal arts skills are profitable for college graduates

March 27, 2012

Liberal arts skills are profitable for college graduates

by Grace

It turns out that employers are looking for the skills that liberal-arts studies instill — critical thinking, logical reasoning, clear writing.  College graduates who tested best at liberal-arts skills were “far more likely to be better off financially than those who scored lowest.  The problem is that many college graduates seem to lack these critical qualifications.

“Most senior managers are unimpressed with the entry-level job applicants they’re seeing, reports a new survey.

Note to recent college grads and the Class of 2012: You may not be as ready for the working world as you think you are. At least, that’s the opinion of about 500 senior managers and C-suite executives in a study by Global Strategy Group, on behalf of worldwide architectural firm Woods Bagot.

In all, a 65% majority of business leaders say young people applying for jobs at their companies right out of college are only ‘somewhat’ prepared for success in business, with 40% of C-suite executives saying they are ‘not prepared at all.’ Not only that, but even those who get hired anyway may not rise very far. Almost half (47%) of C-suite executives believe that fewer than one-quarter (21%) of new grads have the skills they’ll need to advance past entry-level jobs.

And what skills might those be? The most sought-after are problem-solving (49% ranked it No. 1), collaboration (43%), and critical thinking (36%). Also in demand is the ability to communicate clearly and persuasively in writing (31%). Technology and social media skills came in at rock bottom on the list, valued highly by only a tiny 5% minority of senior managers. The kicker: According to the poll, new grads fall far short of the mark in every one of these areas — except tech savvy, the least desired. …”

Get off the Internet and go read a book!
It might be that some of that time students spend waste creating snazzy PowerPoint presentations, socializing on Facebook, and editing Tumblr photos would be better spent in more reading, writing, and studying for classes.  According to data presented in Academically Adrift, students are spending less time on these academic pursuits.

Evidence that liberal arts skills pay off

A new survey should prompt renewed focus on a fundamental higher-education truth: The skills that liberal-arts studies instill — critical thinking, logical reasoning, clear writing — are crucial for success.

The Social Science Research Council study involved 925 college graduates who took the standardized Collegiate Learning Assessment as seniors. It found those who tested best at liberal-arts skills were “far more likely to be better off financially than those who scored lowest,” according to USA Today.

They were three times less likely to be jobless, half as likely to live with their parents and far more likely to avoid credit-card debt.

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