Professor Roche Point of View on Place of Liberal Arts Education in Today's World

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Artes Liberales

On February 17, 2011, Professor Mark Roche of the University of Notre Dame as well as Professors Karen Ho and Bob Krueger of the University of Minnesota discussed the significance of a liberal arts education in modern times. During their talk, they mentioned key points that suggest that not only does a liberal arts major give an individual a chance in the job market, but also the fulfillment of learning for learning’s sake. Overall, the speakers contended that the liberal arts should not be left in the wayside for a research university, as it remains invaluable in modern times.

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Before discussing the actual merits of liberal arts in today’s society, it is imperative to know what the liberal arts are in the first place. Many students have some vague ideas of what the liberal arts are, but they have no clear-cut ideas to what it actually contains. As such, students either avoid pursuing liberal arts major or declare liberal arts major when they have no idea what major to take. According to Professor Roche, the liberal arts include the “Arts, humanities, and the qualitative sciences”.

Taken together, the liberal arts thus cover a wide variety of fields. However, Professor Roche pointed out that the enrollment for the liberal arts have been declining. The reasons for which are varied. I for example am taking biology major at the College of Biological Sciences. The reason for which is that I am interested learning about biology. Essentially, students do not choose the liberal arts if it is not within their interests or intended career paths. Another reason is hinted earlier, the perceived lack of significance of the liberal arts. Professor Roche discussed the seeming preference of parents to steer their children toward more practical majors. In particular, Professor Roche discussed one of the most popular majors today, business majors. During his speech, Professor Roche recounted an anecdote that reveals the benefit of having liberal arts major over a business major. While business majors often have an initial advantage over liberal arts majors in business, liberal arts majors often ascend higher in the career ladder. Professor Roche mentioned that the primary reason for this is that liberal arts major acquire the necessary communication skills to have a successful career. Professor Ho later referenced this again and linked it to her study of the Wall Street culture of short-term gains.

It seems that Professor Roche is essentially arguing that people are overlooking the fact that the study of liberal arts allow students to gain the skills necessary to succeed. As stated earlier, the liberal arts cover a broad range of subjects including the arts, humanities, and the qualitative sciences. This would of course include linguistics and world languages. Considering this, I agree that in today’s society, the liberal arts grants can grant the necessary communication skills invaluable in one’s career. Considering the fact that the liberal arts also allows a student to learn for learning’s sake, it does seem that the liberal arts actually is a better choice than most “practical” courses of study. I say most because I disagree with the claim that the liberal arts would be the best major to choose in considering one’s major. Certain careers require a specific skill set. This would include the natural and physical sciences, math – the quantitative sciences. For this matter, I would say the current setup – that is the requirement of liberal education requirements – is fine.

Overall, Professor Roche proved his point in arguing that the liberal arts still remains significant in today’s world. While it does have a short-term disadvantage over certain majors, it compensates for this by giving the necessary skills essential for log-term success.

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