FLAMES OF THE TORCH

In an article recently published by the New York Times, institutions of higher learning such as the University of Louisiana Lafayette and Michigan State University are eliminating liberal arts majors including philosophy, American studies, and classics “after years of declining enrollments in those majors.”

In consideration of the times, this doesn’t seem all that unreasonable of a move for colleges to make. Today’s average college student is focused more than ever on the result of their education and maximizing its financial payout. In fact, the article specifically notes that students are interested in majors that yield lucrative careers more so than ever before. Unsurprisingly, business related majors have increased in popularity over the past decade.

What’s troubling is that this way of looking at higher education demoralizes the very point of higher education’s existence.

What it does is place more emphasis on the end result of a student’s education instead of placing emphasis on the actual education itself. In this focus of securing the most lucrative career path possible out of college, a student becomes almost indifferent to their current education, so long as it will provide them with a good job upon graduation. A degree, therefore, is more of a checkpoint, or key to unlocking potential jobs. The education is placed inferior to the job, and anything unrelated to the student’s fantasy high-paying position is dubbed irrelevant.

In today’s classroom, this is not hard to find in action. Many students drift through their college experience like academic zombies, uninterested in absorbing every bit of their education.

Many students assume, perhaps unconsciously, that by graduating with a business degree or pharmacy degree that their careers will be set after college.

Naturally this poses an issue for subjects like philosophy and English, disciplines that are usually heavily represented in a liberal arts curriculum. When demand and popularity falter for these not-so-lucrative subjects, the departments take hits, and consequentially fold up shop, such as the case at Michigan State and Louisiana.

It’s subjects like philosophy that provide the backbone of a strong education, and dismissing them due to unpopularity is not a wise

move for universities to make.

While many modern students and some educators think that the most important role of education is simply to prepare them for a career, this is simply not true. Higher education is about the whole development of the individual’s mind through educational pursuits, not simply about earning a piece of paper that will

permit you to apply for jobs.

Liberal arts education in particular is especially dedicated to this educational ideology of development. In fact, the New York Times article points out that the majority of companies polled when asked what they look most for in potential employees is their ability to think critically, creatively, and innovatively – all qualities earned through commitment and ownership of one’s education, not minimal work ethic.

Sadly, it is not a common goal amongst the entire student population to expand and grow as critical thinkers and well-rounded intellects; many fail to realize the great value of attending to the development of

their cognitive capability.

What’s more important during a student’s college years is how they develop their mind to think on a higher level, and by separating themselves from those less educated, they place themselves in a higher group of candidates on the job market.

By not slacking off and by taking their education seriously, they seriously improve their post-collegiate job opportunities far more than specialization of ideologies that would slice open a true liberal arts curriculum.