The current global health crisis has awakened the need for immediate solutions, but it also points to a larger question: how do we reshape our society and prepare ourselves for the next one?
It’s important to build the necessary infrastructure to make sure our cities and countries are ready, but it’s also important that we try to get to the root of the problem and educate ourselves. This is where the liberal arts come in. As technology continues to dominate our everyday lives, many are arguing for the death of liberal arts and the rise of STEM programs. However, it’s during these times when the need for liberal arts shines through.
The need for critical thinking
Despite critics observing the downfall of liberal arts programs, the truth is that liberal arts programs are still very much alive and thriving. As pointed out by Trinity College professor Dr. Sonia Cardenas, the problem is that we now link higher education to job outcomes. This sends a message that it’s more important to focus on what you’re thinking rather than how you’re thinking.
The value of a liberal arts education revolves around the question of how to think. Today’s interconnected world means that solving problems requires a multifaceted approach: when it comes to global crises, sustainable solutions only come about when addressing all the underlying factors at play. This need has led to Maryville University championing a multidisciplinary approach to education, thus exposing students to a range of topics and seeing how disparate fields such as literature, social science, and economics all connect. Creative solutions and thinking outside the box only work if such solutions are backed by feasible game plans. While a liberal arts education promotes creativity and a different way of thinking, it’s the criticality fostered in such programs that will allow students to truly make a difference.
The inherent value of empathy
The interconnectedness within a liberal arts program can also lead to a stronger sense of empathy, which is crucial when it comes to creating meaningful social change. The idea of resilient cities has come up again and again throughout this health crisis, and Cities Today notes that resilient cities need to factor in ways to support local businesses, support household income, and city development plans that account for how goods are transported — among other factors. At the heart of these factors is a need to make sure that we continue to look after each other and the environment.
Close-knit communities are at the heart of liberal arts institutions like Claremont McKenna, which contribute to the widening of students’ perspectives while also allowing them direct access to their teachers. It is in this type of learning environment that students learn the intrinsic value of empathizing and working with one another. By learning to see success and growth as outcomes connected to those around you, liberal arts students become the perfect change makers for shaping society on a larger scale. At the very least, they’re primed towards understanding how their decisions can create a ripple effect and impact those around them.
Supporting investment in arts education is key to creating well-rounded students in touch with their surroundings. Liberal arts programs are necessary grounds for future students to grapple with pressing issues and create societies better than the ones we leave behind.