In Defense of a Liberal Education

August 24, 2019 - Comment

CNN host and best-selling author Fareed Zakaria argues for a renewed commitment to the world’s most valuable educational tradition. The liberal arts are under attack. The governors of Florida, Texas, and North Carolina have all pledged that they will not spend taxpayer money subsidizing the liberal arts, and they seem to have an unlikely ally

CNN host and best-selling author Fareed Zakaria argues for a renewed commitment to the world’s most valuable educational tradition.

The liberal arts are under attack. The governors of Florida, Texas, and North Carolina have all pledged that they will not spend taxpayer money subsidizing the liberal arts, and they seem to have an unlikely ally in President Obama. While at a General Electric plant in early 2014, Obama remarked, “I promise you, folks can make a lot more, potentially, with skilled manufacturing or the trades than they might with an art history degree.” These messages are hitting home: majors like English and history, once very popular and highly respected, are in steep decline.

“I get it,” writes Fareed Zakaria, recalling the atmosphere in India where he grew up, which was even more obsessed with getting a skills-based education. However, the CNN host and best-selling author explains why this widely held view is mistaken and shortsighted.

Zakaria eloquently expounds on the virtues of a liberal arts education―how to write clearly, how to express yourself convincingly, and how to think analytically. He turns our leaders’ vocational argument on its head. American routine manufacturing jobs continue to get automated or outsourced, and specific vocational knowledge is often outdated within a few years. Engineering is a great profession, but key value-added skills you will also need are creativity, lateral thinking, design, communication, storytelling, and, more than anything, the ability to continually learn and enjoy learning―precisely the gifts of a liberal education.

Zakaria argues that technology is transforming education, opening up access to the best courses and classes in a vast variety of subjects for millions around the world. We are at the dawn of the greatest expansion of the idea of a liberal education in human history.

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Comments

Anonymous says:

Zakaria’s best book–and his most important Fareed Zakaria has written some very good books before, including The Future of Freedom and The Post-American World. Those were like his TV show on CNN–smart, knowledgeable discussions of politics and global affairs, helping readers understand what was going on in the world. This book is different. First of all, it’s shorter and simpler. Second, it’s more personal. The whole first chapter, for example, is about his own childhood and education, and throughout he talks directly to the reader…

Anonymous says:

If you want to learn what higher education is all about and why you might need it, this wonderfully written book has the answers This is a marvelous book. It clearly defines what a liberal education is, describes the history of universities through the ages, explains different models for running universities and other organizations of learning, and debunks urban myths about why, for example, Chinese students test two years ahead of their U.S. counterparts (it’s because the go to school much more of the year than students do in the U.S., so that when this oft-cited) test is given, the Chinese students have literally been…

Anonymous says:

Fascinating read to giving future hope to modern youth. Great asset for parents, teens, and society. This is a fascinating review of why youth should seek education for learning’s sake rather than to get a particular job. They should be learning “for their 6th job rather than 1st job.” It gives a good perspective and hope for the current generation of youth, pointing out their pluses when so many people focus on the negatives of the generation. Even my 10th grade daughter read the bulk of it after looking up certain parts for a research paper on millennials. You know the book is…

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