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Liberal arts prepare students for a changing world

The Baltimore Sun

June 13, 2018

 

Every spring, I shake 1,200 hands as our students take their final steps as Loyola University Maryland students. By the time they graduate, most of them know what immediately awaits them in the next chapter of their lives.

In this fast-paced, ever-evolving world, however, those new graduates may not know what they will be doing professionally in a few short years, never mind in a decade or two. After all, many of the jobs that exist today won’t be needed tomorrow. And many of the jobs that will be needed tomorrow are positions we can’t imagine today.

Still, our graduates can feel confident that they are ready even for those uncreated jobs for a single reason: the liberal arts education they have received. Because the best education doesn’t train students for that first job; it educates them for every possibility life will present in the future.

That’s the value of the liberal arts. The liberal arts give students the opportunity to learn critical thinking skills, become erudite speakers and writers, and gain knowledge in a breadth of topics that will inform whatever path they choose. The liberal arts also introduce students to deeply personal and social questions: What is my destiny? What is my role with regard to others in the world? By asking those fundamental questions, students gain a foundation in ethics that helps them achieve personal and professional success.

It’s easy — and even popular — today to criticize the liberal arts as old-fashioned and not applicable to today’s challenges and opportunities. However, it is because of the changing world and the many future unknowns that lie ahead that the liberal arts are so valuable.

The Joint Statement on the Value of Liberal Education, which was released by the Association of American Colleges and Universities, and the American Association of University Professors, speaks to the tremendous need for graduates of liberal arts schools.

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