Thu, Jun 12, 2014 - Page 8 News List


Liberal education has value

I am writing this letter in response to Kirk Hazlett’s letter (Letters, June 10, page 8) and to other articles in the Taipei Times recently that have placed the value of “work experience” and “job skills” above the value of a liberal education and the ensuing diplomas that students earn.

My view will be scoffed at by the more hard-nosed wage-earners and other functionaries out there, many of whom paid not much attention at all to their college education, spending their time honing “skills” for sale in inflexible job markets. And it is not that I am against developing skills for jobs or even simply for one’s own pleasure and fulfillment. As much as anyone, I have been happy that I learned Chinese, Spanish, how to play guitar and how to fix electric fixtures in my home, though they have had little to do with any jobs I have had.

The key is that the value of a liberal education should not be dismissed. Studying arts and humanities (literature, fine arts, culture, history and law, philosophy and religion) has long been a foundation of a valuable education, which can lead to employment in any number of fields.

Alongside this study of course is scholarship in a variety of other subjects in math and science, politics and economics, education, social sciences, etc. Indeed, during my upbringing some years ago in the US, a “liberal education” was considered the vital conduit to future success and accomplishment. Not computer science, not business, not software engineering, not Web design (though there is nothing inherently wrong with any of these majors).

Most importantly, the valuable attributes of the liberal education in these respects are not only academic and scholarly aspects. They are also seen as the groundwork of excellent and proper citizenship, and right-minded participation in civic affairs leading to a best public discourse. This is an area Taiwan might indeed focus on.

“Education can give you a skill, but a liberal education can give you dignity,” the great Swedish feminist Ellen Key said.

In an age that seems to be valuing utilitarian job qualifications for nations of cubicle slaves, copyists and other paper pushers, the value of a liberal education should not be forgotten.

David Pendery

National Taipei College of Business,


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