The Hidden Values of a Liberal Arts Education

You’re sitting in front of endless college applications as a recent high school graduate, and the options of majors are swimming around you, pulling you from thought to thought, begging you to make a choice; to brand yourself with a “life path” that seems permanent. Your parents are telling you to follow your heart, while your peers are advocating for something practical. (But what’s more practical than following your heart?) Now you realize that your choice of a college major is, in some abstract way, a defining piece of who you want to be and what it is that you value. You begin to notice that your peers value practicality over passion and will force themselves to love something they don’t even like. But their vision of practicality is cloudy. There are things you weren’t told.

After a little research you start to notice that by picking English as a major, you’re just as likely to land a job after graduating than nearly everyone else.

“English majors aren’t actually faring as poorly in the job market as the cultural dialogue would have us believe. According to 2010-2011 data from the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce, cited by The Atlantic, right after graduating, English and history majors reported 9.8 and 9.5 percent unemployment, respectively, while economics and political science graduates came in at 10.4 and 11.1 percent. “Practical” computer science degrees didn’t make graduates much more employable, with the comp sci unemployment rate coming in at 8.7 percent. And that’s just employment outcomes right after school; the picture may get rosier as time goes on, as employers generally prefer liberal arts grads, according to a 2012 survey.”


You realize that you possess a specific skill set not learned in a text book.

“Around a year ago, I surveyed more than 100 senior business leaders to get their views on the current state of talent and talent management. Eighty-four percent of them agreed that they would rather hire a person who is smart and passionate, even if the person does not yet possess the specific skills they need. One point of which we can all be certain is that the skills in use today won’t be sufficient to meet the needs of tomorrow. What matters is knowing how to accumulate knowledge and put it to smart use


And then it hits you that some of the most successful people in our culture were once in your shoes.

“…former Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney opened up about the fact that he was once (gasp!) an English major.”

“Other English majors in media include ABC World News anchor Diane Sawyer, NBC News anchor Andrea Mitchell, and former TODAY Show host David Garroway — not to mention countless print and online journalists. One of the most successful news media executives — Grant Tinker, former NBC CEO and TV producer — studied English at Dartmouth University before taking a job as a management trainee at NBC, Business Insider reported.”


By now you’ve come to the conclusion that humanities majors are an essential part of our society’s way of life. They are the voices of reason amongst the chaos and confusion of life. They provide the brief moments when everyone steps aside from their busy, practical lives and remembers how it feels to be human.

by Kimberlee Roberts

with special thanks to Dr. Janine Utell for inspiration and education on the subject.