Mintz: “It’s time to be blunt: postgraduation success requires a demanding liberal arts curriculum”

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I am teaching Created and Called for Community again this semester. This is a course required by all Messiah University first-year students in their second semester. Our first three readings are:

Stanley Hauerwas’s “Go With God: An Open Letter to Young Christians on Their Way to College” (2010)

Ernest L. Boyer’s “Retaining the Legacy of Messiah College” (1984)

John Henry Newman’s “What is a University?” (1852)

All of these readings, in one way or another, challenge college students to think about their education as something more than career preparation. In addition to their majors, students at Messiah University take a robust general education (over 50 credit hours) sequence of courses that includes history, theology, biblical studies, art, social science, literature, foreign language (9 hours), non-western studies, pluralism and society, rhetoric, writing, math, lab science, and science and technology.

I found historian Steven Mintz‘s recent piece at Inside Higher Ed to be particularly relevant to the material I have been teaching the past couple of weeks. Here is a taste of his piece: “A Career-Aligned Major Isn’t Enough“:

1. Students are wrong if they think that they need a career-aligned major.

Just as there’s no royal road to geometry, there are few direct routes to career success apart from nursing. As many millennials have discovered to their dismay, even an engineering or a computer science bachelor’s degree offers no guarantee of a job. Undergraduates need to understand that for many graduates, a bachelor’s degree isn’t the end point; rather, it’s a step along a path.

2. Instead of looking for a program that screams relevance, students need undergraduate programs that are demanding in terms of writing, critical thinking, quantitative skills, presentation skills and experience in working as a team member.

In most cases, a liberal arts education, supplemented with specific transferable skills, represents the best preparation for long-term success.

Sure, it is helpful to acquire foundational and technical knowledge as well as training in areas like Excel and project management and research methods. But it’s precisely because a B.A. or a B.S. isn’t the end of the line, majors matter far less than the skills and range of knowledge that students acquire and are able to demonstrate through projects and activities.

3. The students who do best in the rapidly expanding number of online 12- to 24-month master’s programs or in MOOCs are those with a solid four-year liberal arts background.

Online learning, we now know all too well, isn’t for everyone. Not surprisingly, those students most likely to succeed online are those with strong time management, organizational, planning and metacognitive skills and a well-developed capacity for self-regulation. These are the very skills that a demanding liberal arts education furnishes.

Read the entire piece here. (HT: Chris Gehrz)

Patrons: I have am posting video of my short introductory lecture on Boyer’s “Retaining the Legacy of Messiah College” to the Patreon site. Not a patron? Learn more here.