Editor’s Desk

Editorial: Don’t discount the value of liberal arts

November 15, 2013 

A while back, our governor, Pat McCrory, caught some flack for daring to say a college degree should lead to a job. Well, it should, though I think the governor underestimates the value of the liberal arts in succeeding at work.

In college, I majored in journalism and religion. Journalism taught me how to report, write, edit and photograph. Religion, among other things, taught me to be a critical thinker, which helped me ask better questions as a reporter. Those same critical-thinking skills have helped me as an editorial writer.

In my years at Carolina, some really smart people populated the religion department. My adviser, if memory serves, earned his bachelor’s degree from Northwestern, his master’s from Harvard and his doctorate from Yale. I enjoyed his classes immensely because they were essentially an exercise in critical thinking. He would spend a semester telling his students why he thought Paul did or did not write a particular book of the New Testament. Our job in the final exam was to argue intelligently why we thought he was right or why we thought he was wrong.

I once got a paper back from him that had an A at the top and the following comment in the margin: I don’t agree with a thing you said, but you said it well. In other words, I had made a good argument, even if it wasn’t good enough to convince a professor with three degrees.

Other classes in the liberal arts also made me a better journalist. Among them were sociology, political science, history. By the way, the journalism department required such classes because it too recognized the value of a well-rounded journalist.

This is the only work I have ever done, but it’s my suspicion that doctors, lawyers and CEOs benefit too from being well rounded.

This past weekend, my daughter learned that she had won acceptance to the college of her choice. She wants to be a teacher like her mom, and Gov. McCrory would be glad to know that she stands a good chance of landing a job after graduation. Nationwide, the unemployment rate for elementary education majors is just 5 percent.

But my daughter will be in college for four years (no more than that, please). While there, I hopes she takes the time – and the classes – to become a better teacher and a better person.

Bolejack: sbolejack@newsobserver.com

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