© 2020 Patrick McAndrew

  • Pat McAndrew

Why The Liberal Arts Are A Key Component Of The Future

In my senior year of high school, I got into a heated debate with one of my friends. Well…it wasn’t really that heated, but it had to do with the importance of the subjects we were studying in school. With going off to college in a few months and all of us talking about what we were planning to study, us 17-18 year olds were talking as if we had the whole world figured out.

So, the argument? I was arguing that the things we learned in English class were far more important in life than what we learned in Math class while my friend argued the opposite. Yes…the old logic versus emotion debate. I argued that the things we learned in English class through novels, plays, and short stories were far more important than the Pythagorean theorem or any other formulas. “English class teaches us how to be human and how to empathize! It also teaches us how to write and read properly, which is crucial in any field!” I was very passionate. My friend argued that math always had an answer, there were always problems to be solved, and math was more in demand in the workplace.

The Harvard Business Review published an article about a year and a half ago titled, “Liberal Arts in the Data Age,” by JM Olejarz.  Olejarz discusses how the STEM-only educational mindset is all wrong partly because it forces students to think vocationally, just about the jobs they are preparing for. We must, instead, encourage students to widen their education and interests. The skillset does not matter so much as learning how to think. The liberal arts allow us to open our minds and think differently, thereby making available solutions to problems we may not have noticed otherwise. The liberal arts also teach us about human needs and emotions and, given that humans are 100% emotional, this can provide great insight into how we progress as a society. Some of the world’s most famous tech CEOs studied the liberal arts, including Jack Ma of Alibaba, Susan Wojcicki of YouTube, and Brian Chesky of Airbnb.

Despite the importance of the liberal arts, its crucial to keep in mind the importance of STEM. These industries will continue to shape our future, but they will do so most effectively if those practicing in these fields have an understanding of humans and understand how to think as individuals instead of serving as cogs in a machine. If we just take some time each day to think for ourselves while prioritizing our personal and professional relationships, what we can accomplish will certainly stretch our imagination.

My friend went on to study Math in school, while I started out as an English major and then switched to Theater. We are both making our impact on the world in some way or another and its when these two types of seemingly opposing views meet in the middle that innovation happens.