Martha J. Kanter on the Importance of Liberal Arts for Modern Society

“Anyone making the case for the irrelevance of liberal arts colleges
cannot explain away the oversize contribution that graduates of liberal
arts colleges continue to make to commerce, science, technology, the
arts, and higher education.

As you know, just 3 percent of American college graduates are
educated at a residential liberal arts college. Yet the alumni of
liberal arts institutions account for almost 20 percent of all U.S.
presidents. Roughly 20 percent of Pulitzer Prize winners from 1960 to
1998 in drama, history, and poetry earned their baccalaureate degrees at
liberal arts colleges and universities.

On a per capita basis, liberal arts colleges today produce nearly
twice as many doctorates in science as other institutions. And by some
estimates, about one in 12 of the nation’s wealthiest CEOs graduated
from a liberal arts institution.

At the same time, many of the key instructional breakthroughs in
higher education–the freshman seminar, single-course intensive study
terms, honors programs, and senior theses–were all first pioneered at
liberal arts colleges. It is telling that in China–where officials are
frustrated by the nation’s comparative lack of Nobel prizes and
innovation among university graduates–has now opened its first liberal
arts college.”

The obvious question that this record prompts, is, why have the
graduates of liberal arts colleges flourished? The answers are
several–but all of them highlight the continued importance of the
liberal arts model.

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