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Does a Liberal Education Still Have Value? by John von Heyking

In academia, economics, philosophy, science, universities on November 9, 2012 at 00:02

From: Does a Liberal Education Still Have Value? by John von Heyking, CARDUS, http://www.cardus.ca

The recession has renewed our attention to the number of liberal arts graduates from universities and the difficulty they often encounter in finding work that matches their skill sets. There are numerous stories of English or History majors who have to work in low-paying jobs because their skills simply do not match the needs of employers with higher-paying jobs. Conversely, employers in Canada’s energy sector and even in its struggling manufacturing sector regularly complain they have difficulty finding workers with necessary skill sets to fill their job openings. It seems that Canadian higher education needs to be geared more toward producing workers with strong vocational skills than the ability to write essays on Virginia Woolf or Plato’s metaphysics.

As pressing as these concerns are to us now, the debate between the liberal arts and the “worker bees” has been around since the days of Socrates. The exemplar of the liberal arts, Socrates, was viewed by the Athenians as a parasitic lay-about that is, when he was not undermining the allegiance of Athenian youths to the laws of Athens. He embodied the liberal arts by not getting paid for his work not because he was lazy, but because knowledge is first and foremost for its own sake, not for its utility. To reverse these is to forget that the liberal arts enable one to be free (liber).

Read the essay

Reposted with permission from: CARDUS

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