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  1. #1
    Per Ardua Metamorphosis's Avatar
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    Default Liberal Arts and Social Sciences

    This thread may have already been created (by me for all I know) but a cursory search didn't bring it up.

    What do you think about the usefulness/importance of these degrees?

    I was hit with the question, "What are you going to do with THAT?" a lot when I was in college and that seems to be how it goes for most of the people I know who majored in these fields.
    "You will always be fond of me. I represent to you all the sins you never had the courage to commit."

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    than to serve and obey them. - David Hume

  2. #2
    Away with the fairies Southern Kross's Avatar
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    I had a liberal arts education and often wondered the answer to this question myself. Its not that I think that it is a worthless learning experience but it can be difficult to explain in practical terms to others. The are general transferable skills that can affect every aspect of life but not in a concrete fashion. They are the sorts of things people assume others have but most are lacking in:

    1) It gives you an ability to understand and make sense of the world around you. You are able to deconstruct something and uncover the fundamental ideas at the heart of it. In other words it provides an eye for critical thinking and interpreting things that other might overlook or disregard altogether. It gives you the ability to appreciate imaginative skill and artistic intentions as well as a healthy scepticism with which to question assumptions.

    2) To carry on from 1, you gain problem solving ability. You discover ways to assess the world around you and learn to make changes that better it.

    3) Communication skills. You learn to better express thoughts and ideas in writing and verbally.

    4) It gives you insights into society and human beings. Liberal arts and social sciences are inherently about people: what the feel, how they behave, what drives them etc. It is the theory of life in various forms and approaches - in other words the pursuit of wisdom. You can live many lives over through novels, stories of historical events, a theory of philosophy etc. You see the mistakes and indiosyncrasies of others though books and learn from it as you would if you had lived them. This gives you maturity, clarity of mind, sensitivity in dealing with others, and develops you decision making skills.

    5) Creative skills. This might be more in my vein of study but you have a better idea of how to make things look or sound good, and impress and persuade people. In other words you understand how to demonstrate an idea with the use of, for example, language or pictures in order to acheive a desired effect.

    There are probably more but I can't think of it now. I just know I would be a lesser person if I had not had my education.
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    Supreme Allied Commander Take Five's Avatar
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    Too broad to answer as these things include many fields. Generally they are all ok to get you to law or grad school. English is imo the most useless because the subject is not practical enough and a BA in english is good for almost nothing, save journalism. If you are going to do journalism you may as well go to law school, because if you want to be a liar, you would make more money as a lawyer.
    In my experience poli sci is good for gov't analysis positions, as well as grad & law school. Also many poli sci people end up in business.
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    Senior Member Pixelholic's Avatar
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    At the undergrad level I question their usefulness, they really are the sort of degree that you need a masters degree at least to follow up on. I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with the degree it's just that they tend to attract people who feel like they need a college degree, any degree, but don't really know what they'll do beyond that.

    I got a BFA and I don't regret getting it. I'm currently working on an MFA and I don't regret going for this degree either.
    “You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.” -Nietzsche

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    Southern Kross had a great response.

    I took the road of getting both a liberal arts degree (in Rhetoric) and a practical degree (in Economics).

    Both are so crucial to every aspect of my life and job that I couldn't really tell you which was more important.

    My Economics degree gave me a firm foundation in an extremely important paradigm of thought.

    My Rhetoric degree pushed me to develop my ability to, as SK pointed out, critically think.

    As such, my Rhetoric degree greatly improved my ability to actually understand, and put in the proper context, that which I was learning in Economics.

    Without my Economics degree, I would've been very worried, though, as I wouldn't have had any practical degree to put on my resume, nor any solid understanding of how the "real" (i.e., economic/productive) world works. (That being said, I should note that I took a 5th year so I could, among other things, take Finance and Accounting courses through the Business school, as, after four years of study, I felt even Economics was too up in the air to be very practical.)

    However, I consider my Rhetoric degree to be the core of my soul -- I agonized, on a very deep/personal level, over the books, thinkers, and ideas I studied in those classes. While economics is certainly central to my understanding of the world, it is so in a different way than the ideas that I studied in Rhetoric. I'd probably be a lot less self-aware, a lot less aware of subtleties/nuances/depths/intricacies in the world and others, and I'd probably be a nihilistic douchebag without any real grounding in the world, if it weren't for my Rhetoric degree.

    I kind of forced a midlife crisis on myself in my early 20s, which, as Orobas pointed out, probably led to the development of my Fi. This probably wouldn't have happened til much later, and, as a result, I probably would've succumbed to an extended nihilistic malaise throughout my 20s and 30s, if it weren't for the books I read, papers I wrote, professors I engaged with, and ideas I obsessed over while getting my degree in Rhetoric.

    It also improved my ability to read, write and think.

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    Per Ardua Metamorphosis's Avatar
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    Good responses so far.

    My undergraduate degree is in political science and international relations, and I would say that 90% of the people that were going through it with me were just doing it because there was no Pre-Law degree. I nearly chose economics for my undergrad degree and then thought about it again for graduate school.

    It seems to me that a number of programs in this field teach you how to think, whereas a lot of more "useful" degrees teach you what to think.

    My original question is really about what people think is useful as much as what people think about these degrees. It's kind of sad, really. We tend to prize technical skill over any kind of leadership/ingenuity. It's a major societal flaw, imo (ex. electing lawyers to congress).
    "You will always be fond of me. I represent to you all the sins you never had the courage to commit."

    Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office
    than to serve and obey them. - David Hume

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    Quote Originally Posted by Metamorphosis View Post
    It seems to me that a number of programs in this field teach you how to think, whereas a lot of more "useful" degrees teach you what to think.
    Exactly.

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    Although, I would add that it's the liberal arts that usually do the former.

    Often times, whether they're practical or not, the social sciences tend to do the latter.

    That's why degrees like sociology, women's studies, ethnic studies, etc., are so useless...

    They're neither practical enough for a job, nor contemplative enough to teach you how to think.

    They just try to brainwash you into one paradigm... and they tend not to be useful ones...

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    Senior Member Pixelholic's Avatar
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    I think another problem is that liberal arts classes and social sciences fail hard at professional practice like courses to help prepare grads to look for the RIGHT kind of employment.

    If you get an engineering degree, you go and be an engineer, pretty straight forward, but if you're getting a degree in Religious studies, what do you do? Very few schools and universities actually offer any kind of help to students in these degree fields in finding jobs or career paths that will work with the skills they have learned. So you have a lot of students with BAs who don't know how to use their degree and end up working at starbucks or something else.

    I saw this a lot in my undergrad in an art school. A lot of students just figured they'd get a BFA and then suddenly be an established artist.
    “You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.” -Nietzsche

  10. #10
    Away with the fairies Southern Kross's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Metamorphosis View Post
    It seems to me that a number of programs in this field teach you how to think, whereas a lot of more "useful" degrees teach you what to think.
    Thats what I was trying to get at in a very roundabout manner. A BA gives you the gift of learning for life. Its a foundation from which to become a rounded human being - to become something more than you would be if you were never pushed to question the world or properly justify your opinion (if not find out exactly what you do believe). It gives you an active mind and stops you from being a lazy thinker.

    My original question is really about what people think is useful as much as what people think about these degrees. It's kind of sad, really. We tend to prize technical skill over any kind of leadership/ingenuity. It's a major societal flaw, imo (ex. electing lawyers to congress).
    Strangely I just got a job recently based on, what I believe to be, my liberal arts education. A cousin of mine introduced me to this guy who runs several business in my broader field of interest (with the purpose of getting a job with him). The 3 of us plus an artist (long story) sat down and had a coffee together and we talked about art and various other things. The guy asked me what I studied/done in the past and I gave a 20 second summary or so. We talked some more about other things and by the end he offered me the job. I never even handed him my CV or was asked specific questions about my skills. He just hired me basically based on my character and my ability engage in meaningful conversation about visual arts. So this stuff can happen, just not that often...

    Quote Originally Posted by Pixelholic View Post
    I think another problem is that liberal arts classes and social sciences fail hard at professional practice like courses to help prepare grads to look for the RIGHT kind of employment.

    If you get an engineering degree, you go and be an engineer, pretty straight forward, but if you're getting a degree in Religious studies, what do you do? Very few schools and universities actually offer any kind of help to students in these degree fields in finding jobs or career paths that will work with the skills they have learned. So you have a lot of students with BAs who don't know how to use their degree and end up working at starbucks or something else.

    I saw this a lot in my undergrad in an art school. A lot of students just figured they'd get a BFA and then suddenly be an established artist.
    I agree. More needs to be done to help BA students get some direction when they leave tertiary education. I felt very lost and stuggled for some time to get a job that used my skills.
    INFP 4w5 so/sp

    I've dreamt in my life dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas;
    they've gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the colour of my mind.

    - Emily Bronte

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