Awash in Data but a Drought in Understanding
“Drowning in information but starving for wisdom.” These are the words of E.O. Wilson that address the problem with today’s Information Age. In a recent NY Times article (April 16, 2015), Nicholas Kristof explains that a liberal arts education is what helps society sift through the flood of data to make sense of the world. Kristof writes, “Modern technology puts the world’s information at our fingertips, but what do we do with it? It takes strong critical thinking skills, and the perspective gained from studying a broad range of subjects, to use information wisely. It takes, in other words, a liberal education. Still, pundits, politicians, and the public at large can be skeptical about the merits of education that isn’t obviously vocational. So Kristof offers three reasons why liberal education is good for individuals and for society.
First, an education that includes studies in the arts and humanities is actually quite valuable in the job market. “A broad liberal arts education is a key pathway to success in the twenty-first-century economy,” according to Harvard labor economist Lawrence Katz, who notes that the economic return on pure technical skills is diminishing; the highest returns are now going to graduates who possess both technical, field-specific skills and “soft skills,” such as teamwork and written and oral communication. Another, equally important reason is that “we need people conversant with the humanities to help reach wise public policy decisions, even about the sciences,” Kristof says. Technology does not exist in a vacuum—technical innovations like digital communication and genetic modification bring with them new ethical dilemmas and philosophical issues to consider.
Finally, Kristof says, the arts and humanities offer lessons about human nature, about how to understand the world around us. “Wherever our careers lie, much of our happiness depends upon our interactions with those around us, and there’s some evidence that literature nurtures a richer emotional intelligence,” he says. “In short, it makes eminent sense to study coding and statistics today, but also history and literature.”
Why I Study the Liberal Arts: Dr. James Reitter
The tangibles: I learned how to tip, calculate square footage of a house, and balance my finances from math classes. Math also taught me whether I was getting ripped off or not. The sciences taught me that the natural world is incredibly fascinating. I have played mad scientist in Chemistry, controlled the earth in Physics, become aware of my own body and my surroundings in Biology. Once you realize what is around you, you begin to understand how complex and small we all are in relation.
The intangibles: We all laugh, cry, become angry, get depressed, and feel overjoyed at various points. I am not stranger to this, but writing and reading literature is a superbly helpful guide. I’ve learned from the past in History, from the present in Sociology and Political Science, and how I can make my own future in Philosophy. These classes have also taught me a sense of morality, and I’ve learned how to apply it (or question it) in Criminal Justice. Music, Theater, and Art have taught my heart to bleed and my brain to feel. Psychology has helped with understanding how my brain thinks.
I chose English as a major because those courses taught me the most about the world, and about myself. Through English classes at Dominican, you learn how to: solve problems with creative and inspired solutions, to thoroughly understand material presented to you, to articulate your ideas and thought process to others, and to meet external deadlines. These are critical skills in any place of employment. Coming from a family of engineers, accountants, medical professionals, and salesmen, I have witnessed that the people who possess these skills are the ones that get hired and promoted. The ones lacking these skills get left behind or ignored.
The best answer to this “Why I” question is to become wide-eyed.
Dr. James Reitter is an Assistant Professor of English and a member of the Freshmen Directorate. If you have questions about the value of a Liberal Arts degree, Dr. Reitter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (845) 848-4014.
Experience limitless job opportunities with a liberal arts degree from Dominican College
Despite a social push towards specializations and the focus on getting a job after graduation, the liberal arts remain vital to a well-educated society. More than that, a liberal arts degree from Dominican college will increase your market value. We focus on teaching you the skills employers want the most (communication skills, critical thinking, clear writing, problem solving, cultural understanding). Private liberal arts colleges like Dominican College have the power to meet one of the nation’s top priorities:
increasing the number of college graduates who have the skills that employers want.
What about power and leadership? Well, we have that covered too. Read about the role of the liberal arts in developing social power and in developing society’s leaders. You can even find the reason (click here) why the high- tech computer industry sees a need to hire Liberal Arts majors — especially English majors.
Choosing Dominican College and its liberal arts core is an excellent choice to prepare you for the future. Feel free to contact me with questions about the liberal arts requirements or about a program within the liberal arts disciplines.
Dr. Mark C. Meachem is Associate Professor of Communication Studies and the Director of the Division of Arts and Sciences. If you have questions about the value of a Liberal Arts degree, Dr. Meachem can be reached at email@example.com or (845) 848-4043