Success favors liberal arts education over specialization

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The Appalachian Online

Lindsey Chandler

College is not only a time for students to identify what career paths they want to pursue, but also time to expand upon critical thinking skills and abilities to function in a variety of environments. Specialization over liberal education is not the way to accomplish this.

We spend our four short years focusing on our majors and getting to our desired pathways as quickly as we can. We devote all of our energies to acing the classes that matter, or at least the ones we think potential employers will care about.

We do not, however, spend that much time and effort on general education courses. The faster they can be completed, the better. These courses are not wasting our resources, as some may believe.

General education or liberal arts education courses are more valuable than what we think they are. They provide students with the opportunities to gain applicable skills and tools to meaningfully contribute to society.

Unfortunately, liberal arts colleges find themselves having to defend well-rounded degree options for their students in the face of increasing tuition and a competitive job market. While a practical degree may be more economical, it only prepares students for success in the workplace.

In a recent interview with KQED, Wesleyan University President Michael Roth argued that a broader education gives students “the tools to critically investigate all life’s challenges, no matter what field of work they pursue.”

He states that solving economic problems will not be possible by making students’ mindsets more narrow. Rising to challenges requires us to be open and innovative.

Through liberal arts education, students are required to engage in connecting content areas and transform themselves and they ways they think in order to fit unique situations they will face in the future.

Appalachian State University has a unique system in place that allows its students to tailor their general education experiences toward multiple different perspectives. Students have the freedom to either take courses that interest them, or to pursue completely new ideas.

We have an ideal setup on our hands here. There are just enough requirements in place for a structured general education experience, but within that structure, we find a myriad of options that aid in creative thinking and learning outside of the major discipline.

A liberal arts education is not only meant to fill some federal requirement. It provides an opportunity to expand the mind and foster creativity and problem-solving skills.

Our general education deserves more credit than it is given. In a society that needs creative thinkers to keep moving forward, a broad education is the best setup for success.

Chandler, a senior psychology and Spanish major from Cary, is a copy editor.