At a recent Student Success Project presentation, a parent asked me if their kids should start focusing (starting in middle school) on the type of education they wish to pursue in college. The next question (which actually should have been the first question) was whether it was too early to start thinking this way. My obvious answer is: it’s up to the student and each one is different.
The timing was perfect since college acceptance letters have been flying off computer screens. So with that said, just what are the “smartest” education “paths” considering where the world is headed – and why on earth is Humanities never in the conversation?
You don’t hear too many discussions on the value of a liberal arts education. While liberal arts is defined to include some of the sciences, sometimes the term is used to contrast an education focusing on the arts and humanities (English, history, philosophy, etc.) with one focusing on technical subjects ie: engineering, the sciences etc.
An education that fails to place an emphasis on the humanities is a missed opportunity. Without a base in humanities, students are denied a full view of what it takes to make civilization work.
There is, of course, another way to view the question of whether a liberal arts education has value.
For those who go to college, the four years spent there are often the sole chances for students to think deeply and broadly about their place in the world. To turn college into nothing more than job training (emphasizing only those jobs that pay well), represents another missed opportunity for students and the society that needs them.
Many times it comes down to the value of humanities and arts education vs. science and engineering. But the world has changed and, the answers to these questions are no longer enough.
It’s not just the high cost of college altering the equation. It’s also vast changes that have swept through society with the advent of a world run on information (i.e., on data). So, with that in mind, my response to the value of the humanities in education is balance.
It is no longer enough for students to focus on either science/engineering or the humanities/arts. During the course of their lives, students today can expect to move through multiple career phases requiring a wide range of skills. A student who wants to write screenplays may find they must learn how to build web content for a movie-related app. That effort is likely to include getting their hands dirty with the technology of protocols and system architecture. Likewise, a kid who started out in programming may find himself working for a video game company that puts a high value on storytelling. Doing his job well may require him to understand more deeply how Norse mythologies represent the relationship between human and animal realms.
The point: the old barriers between the humanities and technology are falling.
They should not fall into the easy traps of educational consumerism — thinking that only a “status” school will give them the opportunities they hope for to grow.
They’re many excellent though not well known schools out there. Families should be very careful about getting into debt and be clear about the expectations of their choices.
If you long to become a poet or study Greek history, then, by all means, pursue those passions. But be realistic about what will happen when you graduate.
This means students must find a balance between the real pressure to find a job and the understanding that they will not get a chance like this again for personal discovery.
This column is by Ritchie Lucas, founder of The Student Success Project and previously Think Factory Marketing. He can be reached at 305-788-4105 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and on Facebook and YouTube as The Student Success Project.