I Have a Liberal Arts Degree

by Ilinap on January 31, 2013

Thomas Jefferson. Need I say more?

My parents are Indian (well, that makes me Indian too, of course, but I was raised in the States). All cultural signs point to India. My dad was an engineer. He is very mathy and analytical. He’s always been insanely smart, though I didn’t recognize it until I was in my 30s. I grew up in a family where grades, school, and education were emphasized. My brother and I always did well and enjoyed things like the gifted program and Junior Great Books. I come from a family of readers, and other than me, everyone is mathy. My poor dad and brother just couldn’t understand why I was a clod with numbers. Nonetheless, no pressure. We excelled in school just because we knew we could and should. Learning, sparking creativity, and igniting curiosity were guiding values in my house. My dad wanted us to grow up be thinkers.

The best advice he ever gave me was to study liberal arts in college. “Don’t choose a profession when you’re just 18. You will find a major based on what you are good at and what you love. Take a variety of classes and see what makes you want to learn more. Take classes in subjects you didn’t know existed. Just get a liberal arts degree.” so said the lifelong engineer.

I won’t bore you with the list of courses I took in college at the University of Virginia. Suffice it to say I did a lot of writing, even more reading, and not a lot of test taking. Julian Bond, a founder of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee and all around fixture in the civil rights movement, was my professor when I took History of the Civil Rights Movement (I ended up majoring in History.). Can you even imagine learning about this turning point in U.S. history from a key player of the times? Riveting. All these years later the experience sticks with me. Yet Pat McCrory, North Carolina’s new governor, believes that a class like mine is not worth funding at a state university because it doesn’t directly correlate to a getting a job.

Apparently Pat McCrory does not believe THINKING is a job-related skill.

Is McCrory’s vision of education one that is riddled with bubble-filling-in robotrons who answer C when in doubt and are incapable of original thought?

In my first real job after college I worked for a fortune 100 company. I took my history degree and got myself a job in, wait for it, finance. This was 1991, people. The economy had tanked, and jobs were scarce. Even in the thick competition, I got hired. Lest you think there was foul play or favors exchanged, you’d be wrong. I didn’t even know a soul in the city I had moved to for work. I worked with a cadre of finance and econ majors who chided me. Never mind that we were doing the same job, I could just read and write about it. In fact, when it came time to write a training manual about things like alternative minimum tax, sole proprietorships, and estate planning, whom do you think they tapped? Moi. Yup, that liberal arts degree even afforded me the opportunity to take French…and German…and Latin.

Are you still with me?

I have a liberal arts degree and have never been unemployed.

I worked in finance, advertising, marketing, and communications.

I am a writer.

I have had my own marketing consulting business for almost 10 years.

Join me in telling Governor Pat McCrory that liberal arts degrees are vital to our economy, not to mention our society. Liberal arts majors land higher paying jobs with greater growth potential than trade jobs. Liberal arts majors have a career, not a job. The subtle paradigm difference is important here. Liberal arts majors, with their great growth and income potential, contribute more in taxes to provide revenue to the state. McCrory is short-sighted and irresponsible in his take on higher education (something we should get used to, my friends). And if he wants to dismantle the public higher education system in the same manner Art Pope wants to dismantle public education, we’ll be spending the fruits of our 529 plan in another state.

We can never falter if we nurture a generation of thinkers. It is, after all, the thinkers who become the doers.

I think it’s the “liberal” in liberal arts that perhaps has McCrory reeling.

Leave a comment telling me your liberal arts major and what your career is. We’re going to share the whole thread with the governor’s office. #liberalarts

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{ 53 comments… read them below or add one }

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Donna January 6, 2014 at 11:21 AM

Thank you for this, Ilina. Your engineer father is indeed wise.

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