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Rise Above the Bottom Line: The Benefits of a Liberal Education


There’s more to life than money. These days, it can be hard to remember that. A lot of people focus on the bottom line – their compensation – when it comes to work. But, if you’ve ever been miserable at a high-paying job, you know that a big salary isn’t always worth the cost. When it comes to education, the same principle applies. There’s more to be gained from college than simply training for a high-paying job.


(Photo Credit: University of Mount Union/Flickr)

Journalist Fareed Zakaria, host of CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS has released a new book that challenges us to think beyond the bottom line when it comes to college. In Defense of a Liberal Education serves as a much-needed reminder of the purpose and benefits of a well-rounded four-year liberal arts degree. Here are some things to think about.

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1. The liberal arts have been under attack for years in favor of an emphasis on skills training, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), and earning a degree for the sole purpose of attaining a high-paying job.

Some feel that education should focus more on developing practical skill sets. The idea is that the technological age demands widespread STEM education to prepare our children for success in the fastest-growing occupations, many of which are STEM-based.

2. Zakaria reminds us that a liberal arts education trains us to think, write, and speak our minds. A liberal education teaches us how to learn.

Education should be about more than training for a job. It should be about learning and growing as a person, a citizen, and a contributor to society. It should be about expanding our understanding of the world, developing and honing our own perspectives, and having the background requisite knowledge required to start working toward that higher plane – wisdom. The cultivation of intellectual development is pretty much the earliest aim of education; we understood and appreciated this concept for thousands of years without question.

3. If we don’t know how to write, think, learn, and communicate – STEM skills and training won’t get us very far.

All the concrete factual knowledge in the world can’t replace the skills gained through liberal arts training. Zakaria’s book reminds us that these skills also have tremendous value, and these abilities have far-reaching implications, applications, and benefits.

4. The skills gained through a liberal arts education WILL help you succeed professionally.

There’s no doubt that STEM jobs are on the rise. But, if we want to be able to compete in the new economic landscape, we should cultivate the skills that only a human can bring to the table. Being able to write, knowing how to think and learn, and being able to communicate our unique, exciting, innovative ideas, is more important than ever for success in today’s world. And, that’s not going to change any time soon.

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Do you feel that a liberal arts education is still important in today’s world? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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James Bergman
James Bergman

I agree that education should be about expanding our understanding of the world as well as job training. Rather, it should be about learning life skills and then learning how to apply them in the workforce. I am a history major, and half way through college I was wondering how I would find a job when I graduated. One of my professors talked with me about my concerns and said that history was about more than studying books. It was… Read more »

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