Once technical colleges focused exclusively on career training. That changed with the expansion into course offerings that were transferrable to four-year colleges and universities.
Now nearly every college and university includes in its education plan at least a measure of practical training for jobs. The objective is to create educated students with hands-on knowledge to enter the work world.
Approximately 3.6 million seniors will graduate from high school in the spring, and it is estimated that more than 65 percent of them will enroll in colleges and universities. Many will be pushed to focus on careers, being encouraged by parents and others to pick the so-called “practical” majors in science, technology, engineering and math.
“They (parents) think degrees in STEM subjects will ensure a prosperous future. It’s only natural. But they may be making a big mistake by trying to dissuade children who want liberal arts degrees,” according to author, publisher and education advocate David Bruce Smith.
Smith believes the study of such subjects as history, literature and philosophy can be the infrastructure of a successful career.
Despite a decline in the number of students who choose to study the liberal arts, there is a growing demand among employers for those who graduate with degrees in the humanities. Employers are just beginning to realize that prospective employees with this credential better understand the human condition -- and the things that motivate people, according to Smith.
“The study of math and the sciences certainly makes one an effective practitioner in the workplace. But a successful liberal arts education produces decision makers who are able to draw on a diversity of viewpoints and opinions. In the workaday world of business and commerce, that is an exceptionally valuable asset,” said Smith, co-founder of the Grateful American Book Prize.
He and the late Dr. Bruce Cole, former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, founded the prize in 2015 to encourage young learners to acquire a love of reading and history. They saw that 21st century emphasis on technology was creating a deficit of interest in the humanities among students, and a noteworthy lack of knowledge about their nation.
“So, we created the Grateful American Book Prize as a way of encouraging authors and their publishers to produce more historically accurate works of fiction and nonfiction that would capture the imaginations of America’s younger generations. Our hope is to instill a wish to learn more about the events and personalities of our country’s past. The aim is to help them grow into practical thinkers and good citizens -- qualities that can make them productive, responsible and successful leaders in whatever careers they choose in life.”
As good as STEM-related careers may be, not every student is suited to them – and does not need to be. Education in the liberal arts should remain a core of higher education in a nation that must have people with knowledge beyond math and science.
According to Philipp Frank, who authored “Einstein: His Life and Times,” none other than Albert Einstein said: “It is not so very important for a person to learn facts. For that he does not really need a college. He can learn them from books. The value of an education in a liberal arts college is not the learning of many facts but the training of the mind to think something that cannot be learned from textbooks.”