Fareed Zakaria on Thinking Beyond STEM

In a recent Washington Post Op-Ed, Fareed Zakaria challenges our country’s obsession with STEM fields at the expense of the humanities. Zakaria suggests that minimizing liberal arts education actually undermines our capacity to innovate. He brings his characteristic interest in international comparison to bear in arguing the America’s historical advantages in fostering a culture of ingenuity stem from its relative commitment to broad-based learning. He goes on to make that practical case that companies prefer “strong basics” over “narrow expertise” knowing that products and services distinguish themselves through narrative, not easily replicable technology. The same goes for employees.

See the link below for the full article.*

Zakaria on the Limitations of STEM

*Thanks to Braden Bolten for the reference.

NYT Op-Ed Sees Complementarity between Liberal Arts and Sciences

In a recent Op-Ed Nicholas Kristof makes the case for why the humanities offers an essential skill set in the modern economy. Kristof references the work of labor economist Lawrence Katz in claiming that the “economic return to pure technical skills has flattened, and the highest
return now goes to those who combine soft skills — excellence at
communicating and working with people — with technical skills.” This complementary relationship between technical competencies and the values associated with liberal arts is the formula for success in today’s marketplace.

Here’s the link to Kristof’s piece.*

Kristof on “Starving for Wisdom”

*Thanks to John Rosenberg for providing this source.

New Report Suggests ongoing Strength in Humanities

The Chronicle of Higher Education highlights findings in a recent Academy of Arts and Sciences report that challenge the images of the humanities in decline. While the number of humanities degrees awarded declined over the span of the recent financial crisis, the report notes signs of strength across an array of indicators. These include high school AP exam participation, community college course enrollment, and the number of  second majors in humanities fields (about 25% in 2013).

See links to the Chronicle article and the AAS report below.*

Chronicle review of Humanities

AAS Humanities Indicators

*Thanks to Melinda Semadeni for the link.

NYT Op-Ed on “Transformative Education”

In a recent Op-Ed New York Times columnist, Frank Bruni, recalls a defining moment from his undergraduate experience in order to take on the reductive thinking that equates college with the need to meet “work force needs.” Bruni recalls a specific lecture on King Lear at the University of North Carolina as “the steppingstone to a more aware, thoughtful existence.” While he acknowledges the need for accountability in higher education, he insists on the impossibility of placing “a dollar value on a nimble, adaptable intellect, which isn’t the fruit
of any specific course of study and may be the best tool for an economy
and a job market that change unpredictably.”

See the link below for the full column.

Bruni on “College’s Priceless Value”

*Thanks to Nick Mason for the reference.

The NEH launches “Common Good” Initiative

National Endowment for the Humanities Chairman, William Adams, recently announced a new grant funding initiative called “The Common Good: The Humanities in the Public Square.” While “public humanities” efforts have long been a priority for colleges and humanities centers across the country, the NEH investment represents a significant milestone in debates over how to value liberal arts education.

Follow the link below for the article from Inside Higher Ed that offers details on the initiative and considers some of its political implications.

“Humanities for America”

*Thanks to Braden Bolton for the link.

Employers want Graduates Better Trained in Soft Skills

A recent survey funded by the American Association of Colleges and Universities shows a striking disparity in how prospective employers and college graduates view their professional preparation. While employers tend to agree with graduates’ self-assessment when it comes to “staying current on technologies,” the survey finds much wider gaps (more than 30 points) in areas such as written and oral communication, critical/analytical thinking, and “locating, organizing, and evaluating information.” Both Inside Higher Ed and The Chronicle of Higher Education covered the survey suggesting that it offers support for the value of more general undergraduate education. More specifically, the list of learning outcomes suggests that humanities degrees offer training in highly-prized competencies in today’s work force.   

Below are the links to the articles and survey.

Inside Higher Ed article:

“Well-prepared in Their Own Eyes”

The Chronicle article:

“Students Think they’re Ready for the Work Force”

The AACU survey:

“Falling Short?”

Thanks to Corry Cropper for the Inside Higher Ed link.
Thanks to Rebecca Brazzale for the link to the Chronicle piece.

High-Value Skills in Today’s Marketplace

Forbes magazine cites a recent survey by The National Association of Colleges and Employers that identifies the ten skills most in demand in today’s marketplace. The top five in order of importance can be cultivated in any major, though some, such as verbal communication and the ability to obtain and process information are central to the humanities experience. The key for graduates in finding their way to a satisfying career, is the ability to translate the value of their curricular and extra-curricular experiences to professional environments. Follow the link below for more survey results.


*Thanks to Ben Ogles for the link.

Critical Thinking–What is it and why is it so important?

A Wall Street Journal article explores the increasing currency of a skill traditionally associated with the humanities. Noting that “mentions of critical thinking in job postings have doubled since 2009″ the article goes on to explore the challenge of translating this fundamental academic skill across a professional landscape that defines it in various ways. While employers express a strong interest in critically-thinking employees, they tend to have very profession-specific ideas about what this means. The article raises important definitional questions about a core competency identified with liberal arts education. We might ask the same question in the context of the university. How is critical thinking defined across disciplines and curricula? Do some aspects translate from one discipline to the next and, potentially, one profession to the next?

Connect to the full article below:*


*Thanks to Jamie Horrocks for the link.

Gallup Survey Points to the Benefits of Mentoring

In a recent Op-Ed New York Times columnist, Thomas Friedman, cites Gallup research that bolsters the case for the value of individual mentoring and internship experience for college students.

According to the survey, graduates who had professors “who
cared about them as a person — or had a mentor who encouraged their
goals and dreams and/or had an internship where they applied what they
were learning — were twice as likely to be engaged with their work and
thriving in their overall well-being.”

The data also point to a profound “understanding gap” among college administrators, students, and business leaders. While 22 percent of students claimed to have had meaningful mentoring, college provosts almost universally believed they were successful in preparing students for careers. 14 percent of students and 11 percent of business leaders “strongly believed” graduates were ready for the work force.

Connect to the full column below:


*Thanks to Chip Oscarson for the link.