As a society, we desperately need to invest more into the arts. Our culture has come to exalt the ability to calculate and analyze at the expense of developing an understanding of ourselves and our own emotions. We pride scientific achievements instead of developing artistic expression, partly due to the faults of American capitalism.

But, at the core of humanity lies complex emotions as opposed to pure, cold logic. By extension, we should value artistic pursuit, not scientific performance.

Engineers are the builders of materials and structures, while scientists are the explorers of atoms, forces and geometry. But artists, writers, filmmakers? They design the maps.

The Myth Of “Logic Over Emotion”

A few years ago, neuroscientist Antonio Damasio (a professor at USC who researches the mysteries of the conscious mind) examined individuals who had undergone damage to the emotional centers of their brains without hindering their rationalizing abilities.

What he found was that their capacity to make decisions was significantly impaired. Subjects could map out every potential pathway, weigh every pro and con and describe what they needed to do logically, but they simply could not intuitively figure out what they wanted. They could not act. They could not move forward.

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From where I sit, it feels like the study of the liberal arts and the culmination of that education—the liberal arts and sciences degrees—are being challenged like never before. State governors, top business executives, and parents are questioning the end products that come from liberal arts institutions. In a recent Washington Post article, a managing director of a major financial management company complained that a liberal arts education mainly created “incredibly interesting, well-rounded cocktail party guests” but not graduates who are likely to find jobs.

Unfortunately, I think that a too-narrow focus on first jobs for graduates has these folks missing the bigger point—liberal arts institutions educate for employment, but they also educate for success. That’s the “plus” in our system, our game changer, and I will come back to that later.

I must say that the frustration of critics is completely understandable: unemployment rates remain high, and college education, already shockingly expensive, is growing ever more so. Students are graduating with unprecedented debt. People are concerned about the value—the return on investment of a college degree. It’s no surprise to me when high school students and their parents approach our admissions counselors asking, “So, what kind of job will Susie be able to get with her bachelor of arts degree?” or more pointedly, “Do you offer STEM education?”

Without question, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) is the new buzzword for those anxious about post-graduation employment. These are all disciplines in which America must excel if it is to retain its industrial and economic strength. In his February 2013 State of the Union address, President Obama urged that we double-down on science and technology education starting in our secondary schools. To give the argument even more traction, some would widen the list of STEM professions to include educators, technicians, managers, social scientists, and health care professionals. Indeed, the talk these days in my state of Virginia is about STEM-H (for healthcare).

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, the STEM job sector is growing at twice the rate of non-STEM occupations, but we should note some caveats. First, let’s remember that STEM workers, as identified by the Commerce Department, comprise only 5.5% of the workforce. Second, while STEM workers overall may earn 26% more than their counterparts, the greatest differential is seen in the lowest-level jobs; the higher the terminal degree, the less the earnings difference.

Moreover, it is not a given that the only path to STEM job success is to obtain a STEM degree.

  • About one-third of college-educated workers in STEM professions do not hold degrees in STEM.
  • Two-thirds of people holding STEM undergraduate degrees work in non-STEM jobs.
  • One-fifth of math majors, for instance, end up working in education. (That is a good thing, I would argue.)
  • Nearly 40% of STEM managers hold non-STEM degrees.

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The rapid pace of artificial intelligence (AI) has raised fears about whether robots could act unethically or soon choose to harm humans. Some are calling for bans on robotics research; others are calling for more research to understand how AI might be constrained. But how can robots learn ethical behavior if there is no “user manual” for being human?

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The Trivium and the Quadrivium

The Liberal Arts

The liberal arts consists of seven branches of knowledge that prepare students for lifelong learning.

The concept is Classical, but the term Liberal Arts and their division into the TRIVIUM and the QUADRIVIUM date back to the Middle Ages.

The Trivium and the Quadriviumtrivium-wikipedia

The trivium includes those aspects of the liberal arts that pertain to mind.  The quadrivium, those aspects of the liberal arts that pertain to matter.

TRIVIUM= Logic, Grammar, and Rhetoric.

QUADRIVIUM= Arithmetic, Music, Geometry, and Astronomy.

Logic is the art of thinking; grammar, the art of inventing symbols and combining them to express thought; and rhetoric, the art of communicating thought from one mind to another, the adaptation of language to circumstance. Arithmetic, the theory of number, and music, an application of the theory of number (the measurement of discrete quantities in motion), are the arts of discrete quantity or number. Geometry, the theory of space, and astronomy, an application of the theory of space, are the arts of continuous quantity or extension.



These arts of reading, writing, and reckoning have formed the traditional basis of liberal education, each constituting both a field of knowledge and the technique to acquire that knowledge. The degree bachelor of arts is awarded to those who demonstrate the requisite proficiency in these arts, and the degree master of arts, to those who have demonstrated a greater proficiency.

Today, as in centuries past, a mastery of the liberal arts is widely recognized as the best preparation for work in professional schools, such as those of medicine, law, engineering, or theology.

Those who first perfect their own faculties through liberal education are thereby better prepared to serve others in a professional or other capacity.



Source: The Trivium: The Liberal Arts of Logic, Grammar, and Rhetoric
by Sister Miriam Joseph Rauh, C.S.C., (1898-1982) earned her doctorate from Columbia University.
A member of the Sisters of the Holy Cross, Sister Miriam was professor of English at Saint Mary’s College from 1931 to 1960.

The Great Lesson in Liberal Arts

The Thinker- Liberal Arts Education

How does a liberal arts education help develop an individual’s character? As a working class individual with degrees in the humanities, I have argued the notion that my area of study helped me become a better person rather than a person with hard skills.

I have skills in writing, analysis, logical thinking, and the big one: empathy. I have come to terms that a liberal arts education is not a stepping-stone in a fully ordered career plan. However, I do have imagination and imagination is what I found to be the common trait in students that have studied Liberal Arts.

1) What makes a Liberal Arts Student Different

These individuals­ appeal to a certain type of imagination: empathy. For what is empathy if not imagination?

You imagine yourself in someone else’s shoes, you imagine “what if that starving child was my own child?” you imagine yourself closer to the atrocities being done even when your fifteen million miles away. Empathy is a form of imagination that demands you to stand outside of yourself and connect with another being.

2) The Lesson in Liberal Arts

Studying the humanities communicates the same message. Are we responsible to individuals we don’t even know, that are half way across the world?

The answer is yes. My duty as a moral individual is to help anyone in need, to be my brother’s keeper, to empathize with those who are suffering. My background in history and philosophy taught me not only that history repeats itself, but that you can learn from it too.

3) The Benefits of Liberal Arts

History may be tales of the victors, but future generations can learn from past mistakes. I began to realize that violence or self-shame are not choices that will aid me in my life journey.

I learned from my studies that life is unfair, yet there is hope because there are people who can empathize, imagine, and act. I have learned that value must be based on its moral implications and its ability to develop an individual into a better citizen of the world.

4) Why learning about the Liberal Arts is important

Why is learning of and about the Liberal Arts important? Because in this time and age, we need to teach our generation and the next one that a person’s value is not measured by utility. Teaching and learning the Liberal Arts will not fix everything, it will not cure or nullify the tragedies in the world.

However, it can provide a demarcation towards understanding. An understanding that will ultimately lead to empathy and action.

Given our current state in the world, from terrorism to environmental challenges, the ability to recognize “the other”- the “other” less fortunate, the “other struggling”- catapults an individual towards passionate change.

Knowing this, I highly recommend that anyone that reads this article share it on social media. Not just to learn about Liberal Art studies, but to discover the benefits of learning about the depths of human history.


“We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist,
Using technologies that haven’t been invented,
In order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet.”

– Karl Fisch, “Did You Know”

How Do You Prepare Someone For Something That Doesn’t Exist?

How do you train a person for a job that hasn’t even been invented yet?  In the old days, the mantra of high school teachers was that they were “preparing students for college.”

With a trillion dollars in student-loan debt (the next bubble to burst?), 56% college graduate unemployment, and the rise of social-media engagement scores, college may not be a what teachers should be solely focusing on. (Few high school teachers I talk to are even aware of the r/evolution occurring in higher education)

65% of today’s grade school kids will end up at jobs that haven’t been invented yet
-United States Department of Labor- Futurework – Trends and Challenges for Work in the 21st Century

Fifteen years ago I had the opportunity to sit down with individual leaders of major groups at Microsoft (MSN, Games, programming, education). We talked about their jobs and the skills sets and what students needed to be successful. We talked about computer science degrees and engineering majors. A student I brought asked them about THEIR degrees.

They looked at each other and went around the table: Art Major (Line & Figure Design), Dance, Literature, & Education. They were shocked: All Liberal Arts degrees! This lead to a great discussion among themselves about what their liberal arts degree provided for them and the conclusion was that it gave them a multitude of different ways of approaching and looking at problems and asking questions. One talked about the patterns she loved in dance and how she was drawn to programming because she “saw” patterns in the code.

I was reminded of the above while reading Jeff Utecht’s ebook REACH: Building Communities and Networks for Professional Development, where he shares a story on page four, about meeting an American in Shanghai who coordinated programmers from China & India. Jeff writes:

When I asked him how a person with a BA in Art ends up with a job in the computer/communication business, he talked about his interview with IBM. What IBM was looking for was somebody who could learn, unlearn and relearn quickly. The degree was less important than the skills he had as a communicator and learner.

Technology is rapidly changing the world, cultures and what it means to be “employed”. In his Mobile Learning Conference Keynote address, Google’s Education Evangelist Jaime Casap shared how Google didn’t even exist when he was in high school.

The Microsoft folks seemed to believe the best preparation was learning how to solve problems and “learning how to learn”. Jeff Utecht implies learning how to “unlearn” as well as learning, and communication skills are important to prepare students for the future….What Do You Think? 


Tools for Preparing for the Future: Educational Technology

I’ve been very critical of the snail-like implementation of “technology-as-a-tool” in education. I continue to be impressed with  educators at all levels who embrace the ubiquity of the Internet, devices, and developments to enhance, enrich and strengthen student learning. I admire administrators that allow staff to experiment and safely risk making those changes.

The leaps in civilization during the The Stone Age, The Bronze Age, & The Iron Age were made possible with increased uses of technology. The rapid evolution of the Internet in modern technological history has rendered very little advances in the systematic institution of education.

So, in preparing a student for a world we can only imagine, let’s start with envisioning the future classroom with a great infographic by EnvisioningTech:


Envisioning The Future Of Education

This visualization is the result of a collaboration between the design for learning experts TFE Researchand emerging technology strategist Michell Zappa.