Various well known universities in the US have the tradition of a Liberal Arts education, which they believe has contributed to their excellence in education. In a Liberal Arts system, freshman students are encouraged to take courses from various disciplines of Arts and Sciences without the pressure to decide on their area of specialization, hence their future occupation. Being exposed to diverse ideas involving Literature, History, Psychology, Sociology, Ethics, Music and so forth enriches the person’s vision and empowers the person with critical thinking skills necessary in all areas of life. Unfortunately, most universities around the world focus on early specialization and operate as vocational training centers and fail to prepare their students for life. For this reason, Liberal Arts should be universal across all universities of the world regardless of the level of development of the country.
Critics of a Liberal Arts Education assert that this system results in loss of time for individuals, families and the country. They believe that early specialization gains an average of 2 years and the graduates are able to join the market and become productive rather than losing those 2 precious years. However, in early specialization, most of the time, students are coerced into studying a field they are not passionate about. This may mean years of studying at a department and even working in a field they dislike and look for a way out for a different profession. Some even try to go back to university after years of unhappiness. This is a terrible waste of time and energy. It shouldn’t be forgotten that high school graduates are too young to make such an important decision in their lives as the choice of profession. For people to be productive as adults in their work, they need to feel passionate about what they are doing. A profession that suits one’s skills and interests is the key to success. The Liberal Arts approach allows the students to discover their interests, their talents and the world, and thus make the right decision about their profession. As can be seen, graduates of Liberal Arts programs can bring greater creativity, productivity and innovation to their work places.
Supporters of early specialization also claim that those 4 years of university education is necessary for a proper vocational training and any less would mean underqualified graduates for the job market. They believe for students to learn the ins and outs of their fields, they need 4 years of intense focus, otherwise they will not be ready for the demands of their areas. However, all successful companies around the world focus on qualities other than knowledge of the job in their employees and interns. Companies like Apple or Google look for intellectual curiosity, social skills, and internal motivation –all skills Liberal Arts successfully endows its students with- when employing a person. Knowing how to think and how to learn are more important than anything because the demands of the market are constantly changing. Apple Company proudly desribes the root of its success as the successful combination of technology and the art of design, whereas Facebook founders points to the combination of an understanding of both Psychology and Technology. For this reason, there is a new trend among the top universities to blend Liberal Arts and Technology, hence offer new undergaruate programs.
Liberal Arts education does not only prepare one for success in professional life. The skills it encourages one to develop are transferable to all areas of life. It creates free souls and free minds, as the former slave Frederick Douglas passionately advocates. He describes his journey from slavery to freedom as one of a journey in Liberal Arts and defends this approach for the emancipation of all the supressed people of the world. It is so true that for humanity to find a way out of the chaos created by competition, greed and inequality, there is a need to found more egalitarian societies, work places, educational institutions and models of life; we need emancipated minds and souls. This is why the world needs Liberal Arts universities worldwide.