Great Books and Business

Potential students (and their parents) often ask, “Are liberal arts students being prepared for the ‘real world’?” My response is, “Yes, today more than ever.”

Recently a freelance writer interviewed me for University Business magazine (see the article here). She asked me about the practicality of a liberal arts education. I told her that — even though the great books approach has its roots in antiquity — the approach is very practical for today’s workplace.

Today’s worker needs a dynamic ability to absorb information, adjust to organizational goals, and navigate complex relationships. Unfortunately, many of today’s universities are preparing students for narrow specialization instead of a broad outlook. Narrow specialization is, in my opinion, an outmoded way of thinking. It does not prepare students for the “real world”. Today’s market moves too fast and changes too quickly. What is needed are creative intellects with broad outlooks and an ability to synthesize across disciplines (like history, politics, philosophy, and science).

Occupational training is not Gutenberg’s ultimate goal. Our ultimate goal is for our students to seek and embrace truth. But there are fringe benefits to that goal. Those fringe benefits — especially today — make great books students especially attractive to employers.


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