What is the value of a liberal arts degree?
We have heard much about the poetry of mathematics, but very little of it has yet been sung. The ancients had a juster notion of their poetic value than we. The most distinct and beautiful statements of any truth must take at last the mathematical form. We might so simplfy the rules of moral philosophy, as well as of arithmetic, that one formula would express them both.
—H. D. Thoreau
Why study Arts and Sciences? What is the value of an Arts and Science Degree?
As a prospective college student, you might wonder what approach you should take to your post-secondary education. Does it make sense to focus on a set of skills specific to the career you wish to pursue? Or, should you aim to develop your mind and intellect more fully?
A liberal arts education teaches you how to think, but doesn’t tell you what to think.
While you might not learn how to program a computer, fix a broken pipe, take a chest X-ray, or give a shot, a liberal arts education will teach you new ways of thinking. You will need to know how to solve problems creatively, no matter what career you choose. A liberal arts education helps you develop a strong, yet flexible intellect. Learning from a wide variety of disciplines will help teach you to think for yourself. At the same time, you will be open to new ideas and able to solve problems more easily.
A liberal arts education teaches you how to learn.
An education can teach you how to learn and organize ideas, how to make connections between diverse areas of knowledge and apply that new knowledge to varied situations.
Good learning habits are transferrable from one subject to another. It might surprise you to know that learning about poetry is related to learning how genetics plays a key role in our behavior. Getting ideas from science, literature, and art brings fullness of the mind, and helps generate new ideas. Those wonderful “AHA!”moments — when an idea comes to mind, seemingly out of nowhere and a problem is solved — are the result of exploring diverse areas of knowledge.
A liberal arts education allows you to visualize ideas and thoughts as a whole.
The real world, which includes the working world, is not divided into “majors.” Most work requires knowledge that reaches beyond a single field of study. Understanding how things relate in a variety of contexts, and how they contrast with to one another, or how they are dependent on one another brings more depth to any endeavor or occupation.