David Brooks: Liberal Arts and The Big Shaggy

In this morning's NYT, David Brooks touts the value of a liberal arts education and I could not agree more. What this country needs most, today and every day, is a thinking, well educated citizenry. A citizenry that knows the 'why, where, who and when' of things, can put disparate thoughts all together in order to see where events will lead, understand why they are happening and to get a feel for what one should do in response. In the United States, we don't educate many folks to 'think.' I have a sense that real educating is not done on purpose. I mean, the powers that be surely don't need or want a thinking public, do they? But that's fodder for another post on another morning.
My brother and I have always said that a good liberal arts education is the most valuable kind to have, because it enables one to truly learn to 'think' and to write/communicate. And if you can think things through and communicate well, then you can take on almost any job throughout an entire lifetime.
Thinking is about putting various pieces of information together and developing tasks that lead to a goal. Thinking means you make the 'plan', expect the unexpected, pull disparate pieces into a unified whole, map out options and alternatives and then quite frankly, hire others to do the specific jobs you are not trained to do.
The 'thinker', especially if he/she brings some creativity to the process - and frankly, thinking itself is pretty creative - well then, the 'thinker' gets stuff done. Can accomplish a lot.
I watch young folks become business majors because they believe their potential for good jobs increases. Well, that may or may not be true. What really underlies anyone's ability to hold and keep a job, to reach ahead and see a course of action is the ability to put the pieces together, to see the whole of something and to discern courses of action. Oh, and then be able to articulate what one has just thought through.
So, study history or literature or a painting. In each case, you are honing skills that crossover into life itself. And gain you a salary.
Read David Brook's op-ed piece today. He writes, "Let me stand up for the history, English and art classes, even in the face of today’s economic realities. Studying the humanities improves your ability to read and write. No matter what you do in life, you will have a huge advantage if you can read a paragraph and discern its meaning (a rarer talent than you might suppose). You will have enormous power if you are the person in the office who can write a clear and concise memo."
Then David Brooks goes on to write about The Big Shaggy in all of us. Go read what he says. Click on the links above.


Elisabeth Lopez said…
Love this post! After reading it I ran across this op-ed by Stanley Fish in the NYT...A Classical Education: Back to the Future. (Here's the link - http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/06/07/a-classical-education-back-to-the-future/?src=me&ref=homepage.)