A gym for the mind


As an aspiring journalist, I’ve been asked (and I’m sure I’m not the only one!): “Why didn’t you major in something more practical?”

Other questions/comments don’t have to be said, as they are explicitly implied:

“How on earth are you going to be able to find a job after college?”

“I thought print media was dead… I hope you know how to use Twitter.”

This is what I wanted to talk about, something I read on the UCLA Department of Spanish and Portuguese website, can be viewed here.

So, what’s the purpose of this liberal arts degree I’m going to receive in the Spring? Should I have majored in accounting, or biology? I would have struggled to pass my classes, but I might have a better chance of getting a job that pays well after graduating from college.

Well, according to these guys:

A liberal arts education teaches you how to think critically. Its goal is to nurture the growth of human talent in order to prepare individuals for a fulfilling and meaningful life in a free society.

In short, a liberal arts education is aimed at teaching you how to think. It helps you to develop strength of mind, and an ordered intellect. To exercise the mind, any relevant discipline can be utilized – literature, sociology, or biology. The idea is that training the mind in one area will prepare it for learning in other areas as well.

Think of a liberal arts major as a gym for the mind.

So, if you are questioning the value of your degree, and how far it will get you, think about what you’ve gained as an individual from going to college. My experiences these past 4 years have given me wisdom and helped me grow as a person.

Ask yourself these questions: Do I have the ability to think critically? Do I have an enhanced sense of myself and my position/duty within society? Can I appreciate beauty and creativity? Will my life be more meaningful and fulfilling now now, with all of the knowledge I can apply to any situation I encounter? Am I a well-rounded and gifted person?

Brain

These are tough questions to answer, and you probably can’t answer them quite yet.

But when people ask me for the hundredth time why I didn’t major in something more practical, I think back on this explanation of the liberal arts degree, the qualities I value as an individual and who I am as a person today and I tell them…

“Actually, I’m afraid you are mistaken. I did major in something practical.”

Virginia Werner

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7 Responses to A gym for the mind

  1. I have been asked those very same questions. How refreshing to hear such an outlook. I have been contemplating the benefits of a liberal arts degree and the benefits it can bring for some time now. Thank you for so many interesting things to think about and a little ammunition for those of us who also did not “major in something too practical.” I suppose there are several other benefits that may just fall under the radar. It is interesting to think about what subjects and qualities are greatly valued by our culture and what ones are equally important but not held to the same esteem.

  2. Kathy Kwong says:

    This is very interesting. I was a pre-pharmacy major before I decided to switch majors. To many people, such as my parents, it made sense as a career. I could have also graduated and made a pretty penny. I have heard that many people choose a career path because they actually want to learn more about what they do. I have also heard that people are more successful when they are learning as they expand in their career. It makes a whole lot of sense to do something that I want to learn about. Reading and writing does exercise my mind. But when I write stories about new topics and new ideas I know nothing about, it further challenges my mind to understand it and takes it to another level. I like the challenge and I like challenging things while I’m also learning about it.

  3. MadelineStone says:

    I too have been asked all the same questions and ironically enough I have also been asked “what has happened to the liberal arts degree?” As if my journalism degree didn’t qualify as liberal arts because it was not a more traditional literature degree. I appreciate the points you make in support of a liberal arts degree especially the emphasis on critical thinking and creativity, two things that if harnessed correctly could change not just the media scene but many other aspects of our society. It is also interesting to see not just how little people value a journalism degree but how much they criticize the media on top of devaluing the journalism degree. Perhaps they need a reminder on what the liberal arts degree is and how it can be applied and that is exactly what you’ve done. Thank you.

  4. I really enjoy the facts you’ve brought to the table. As a previous biology major turned public relations major, I understand the criticisms brought against liberal arts degree holders. People often turn their head and zone out when they hear “liberal arts” because they think there is nothing to it; that everything is based on science. But what would our world be like if those who graduated with a liberal arts degree didn’t exist? Nothing! We are able to think critically, analyze, communicate fluently and create solutions to problems. Those who graduate with a liberal arts degree have much more knowledge and experience than those who regurgitated information onto tests for four years.

  5. Those facts are interesting and a great way to answer a lot of people who have asked me similar questions! I always get frustrated when people ask me how I’m going to survive as a journalism major, especially when society tells you to follow your dreams one minute and then tells you they aren’t possible the next. I think the findings about critical thinking and talent are great answers. It’s also shows education helps with more than just getting you a salary and retirement plan. It helps improve the person you are for everyday life and learning. I know I’ve learned much from journalism that will help me no matter where I end up in life!

  6. This post makes some great points about the importance of a liberal arts degree. I find it almost comical when people scoff at journalism as a major, because as we have all learned, media is essentially another branch of government! Print media may be smaller than it has been, but technology allows journalism to continue to be a booming field – and as long as we stay up on the tech and news we need, journalism can be an excellent degree and incredibly relevant! Furthermore, with subsets such as advertising and public relations becoming more and more important to corporations etc. it is in fact a ridiculous notion to this our degrees aren’t just as applicable to the “real world” as biology or business.

  7. pcriscola says:

    I think this happens to most students getting a liberal arts degree. Most outsiders don’t see the importance of the kind of work we do and how much of an impact we can make. A lot of people I talked to considered other majors before they finally chose Journalism, that was even the case with me. But to see the work journalism majors are producing proves the value of our degree and accomplishments of our finalized product. Thank you for sharing this, its great to hear the benefits we should be looking at!

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