May 24th, 2014
09:56 AM ET

Why the liberal arts matter

For more What in the World watch Sundays at 10 a.m. & 1 p.m. ET on CNN

By Fareed Zakaria

It's graduation season in the United States, which means the season of commencements speeches – a time for canned jokes and wise words. This year I was asked to do the honors at Sarah Lawrence in New York, a quintessential liberal arts college. So I thought it was worth talking about the idea of a liberal arts education – which is under serious attack these days.

The governors of Texas, Florida and North Carolina have all announced that they do not intended to spend taxpayer money subsidizing the liberal arts.Florida’s Governor, Rick Scott, asks, “Is it a vital interest of the state to have more anthropologists? I don't think so.” Even President Obama recently urged students to keep in mind that a technical training could be more valuable than a degree in art history.

I can well understand the concerns about liberal arts because I grew up in India in the 1960s and ‘70s. A technical training was seen as the key to a good career. If you were bright, you studied science, so that’s what I did.

But when I got to America for college, I quickly saw the immense power of a liberal education.For me, the most important use of it is that it teaches you how to write. In my first year in college, I took an English composition course. My teacher, an elderly Englishman with a sharp wit and an even sharper red pencil, was tough.

I realized coming from India, I was pretty good at taking tests, at regurgitating stuff I had memorized, but not so good at expressing my own ideas. Now I know I'm supposed to say that a liberal education teaches you to think but thinking and writing are inextricably intertwined. When I begin to write, I realize that my "thoughts" are usually a jumble of half-baked, incoherent impulses strung together with gaping logical holes between them.

Whether you’re a novelist, a businessman, a marketing consultant or a historian, writing forces you to make choices and it brings clarity and order to your ideas. If you think this has no use, ask Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.

Bezos insists that his senior executives write memos – often as long as six printed pages. And he begins senior management meetings with a period of quiet time – sometimes as long as 30 minutes – while everyone reads the memos and makes notes on them.

Whatever you do in life, the ability to write clearly, cleanly and, I would add, quickly, will prove to be an invaluable skill.

The second great advantage of a liberal education is that it teaches you how to speak and speak your mind. One of the other contrasts that struck me between school in India and college in America was that an important part of my grade was talking.My professors were going to judge me on the process of thinking through the subject matter and presenting my analysis and conclusions – out loud. Speaking clearly and concisely is a big advantage in life.

The final strength of a liberal education is that it teaches you how to learn – to read in a variety of subjects, find data, analyze information. Whatever job you take, I guarantee that the specific stuff you will have learned at college, whatever it is, will prove mostly irrelevant or quickly irrelevant. Even if you learned to code but did it a few years ago, before the world of apps, you would have to learn to code anew. And given the pace of change that is transforming industries and professions these days, you will need that skill of learning and retooling all the time.

These are liberal education's strengths and they will help you as you move through your working life. Of course, if you want professional success, you will have to put in the hours, be focused and disciplined, work well with others, and get lucky. But that would be true for anyone, even engineers.

Anyway, that is a piece of the graduation talk I gave at Sarah Lawrence College on Friday. You can watch the whole thing – which has much more – online here.

Post by:
Topics: Education • GPS Show • Ideas • What in the World?

soundoff (432 Responses)
  1. Deloras

    Hi tһеre to every , as I am truly eager of readіng this
    webpage's ρost to be updated regulaгly. Ιt cօntains fastidious data.

    my web-ѕite ... v

    January 9, 2021 at 9:46 pm |
  2. Ona

    If you look to buy essay online than support is make certain should motivate it done out
    of. This model says that successful people have five things in typical.

    Here is my web page – 918kiss new download link

    January 9, 2021 at 10:01 pm |
  3. Trent

    Аttractive section of content. I just stumbled upon your weblog and in accessіon capital to assert
    that I get in fact enjoyed account your blog postѕ. Any way I will
    be subscribing tⲟ your feeds and even I achievement you access consistentlу fast.

    My web site cherry

    January 9, 2021 at 11:19 pm |
  4. Vivian

    Pretty niⅽe post. I just stumbled upon your weblog аnd wished to say that I'ᴠe
    truly enjoyed browsing your blog posts. After all I will be subsϲribing for your
    feed and I'm hoping you wrіte once more soon!

    My web blog: drover

    January 10, 2021 at 2:38 am |
  5. Neal

    If you want to oƅtain a great deal from this post then you have to apply
    these methods to your won webloց.

    Here is my web-site ... postmark

    January 10, 2021 at 3:13 am |
  6. Dani

    First, the bad news: because among the 2012 Olympics, UK's most renowned music
    festival, the Glastonbury festival, is cancelled for 2012. Alas, there are just enough resources the actual world whole
    country to carry these two massive events all ultimately same year.

    Leeds Pageant. August 24 to 26. Bramham Park, Bramham, Leeds.
    Of course, running simultaneously with the Reading Festival
    is the Leeds Party. Both music fests are run by UK music
    promoter Festival Republic, which, by the way, also manages the Glastonbury Holiday.
    Both music fests feature punk, heavy metal, alternative, and indie rock.
    Unable to make a decision whether to wait Leeds or Reading?
    Pay a visit to whichever is nearer. It will likely be the same bands many.

    Leather results in great rock and metal guitar driven music.
    I've seen Lemmy of Motorhead and Dave Grohl of the where to play 918kiss use detailed leather straps they
    as well reflect their character as well as the style of music that play.
    As a rock guitarist, a leather strap is almost a should have accessory!

    A: Initially but then see Alice in the studio. He was probably golfing.
    I went along with Bob Ezrin, who was one of my influences in aiming to learn tips on how to write for
    strings. Bob and George Martin are two of this biggest because they came from influenced me the most in understanding how to write for strings.
    They were producing the records We were listening
    to. When I heard "Eleanor Rigby," I thought it was Paul McCartney doing that, and when i figured out it was George Martin. I actually gave Bob a copy of Spirits.
    I mean, come on, he's Bob Ezrin. He produced The
    Wall, for Christ interest. But I don't know what songs Applied to be
    on (on Welcome 2 My Nightmare). I sang on two or
    three, and has been so enjoyable.

    Yep, it's completely built. The artwork is done, songs are done, and Wind Up just needs some
    time to do their jobs; will be promote and hang up up
    the album, however it comes outside in February.

    Learn easy methods to cut look of your hair. If I ever have 9-12 months off I'm
    going to start too, I do not know the hho booster
    is called beauty school, or hairdresser school
    but i would like to do that a lot of. I feel like that would
    be a good profession post Bayside.

    Yeah, me Anthony and Jack gear different picks each build.
    I'm a big hockey fan, so in seen an explosion I
    have had the Big apple Rangers logo, a Lost logo, and also the Obey Giant logo.
    Amazingly exciting . Anthony has received a Jimmy Johns order on his pick, a Metallica logo,
    and a Yankees name. Jack'has some Monty Python thing, and has also had a
    crossword puzzle.

    Back towards the performance. No, I didn't hear a rocker whose voice was rough on your
    edges for dinner. I heard a music legend who but forgotten relevance of of an audio lesson or tips on how to deliver this particular.

    Feel free to visit my site 918kiss report

    January 10, 2021 at 5:16 am |
  7. Adolfo

    If you are going for finest contents like myself, only
    pay a quick visit this site everyday because it provides feature contents, thanks

    Feel free to surf to my blog: scr888 easy win game

    January 10, 2021 at 11:45 am |
  8. Aqwsalkat

    pharmacy express best online canadian pharmacy 24 hour pharmacy near me

    January 10, 2021 at 5:13 pm |
  9. Bea

    It is a topic that's close to my heart... Best wishes!
    Exactly where are the contact info though?

    My blog: MariCBerumen

    January 10, 2021 at 6:03 pm |
  10. Fwsxalkat

    cheap erectile dysfunction pills online california pharmacy dysfunction

    January 10, 2021 at 6:42 pm |
  11. Freddy

    Hi my friеnd! I wiѕh to say thɑt this post is awеsome, great wrіtten and include apρroximately all vital іnfos.
    I'd like to look more posts like this .

    My blog; g

    January 10, 2021 at 10:36 pm |
  12. Trey

    Hеllo there! I simply ѡant to offeг you a big thumbs up for the great info you've got here on tһis post.

    I am coming back to your web site for more ѕoоn.

    Feеⅼ free to visit my site :: royalty

    January 11, 2021 at 4:26 am |
  13. Lokualkat

    online pharmacy reviews ed pills online pharmacies near me

    January 11, 2021 at 6:59 am |
  14. Leola

    Hi there, I want to subscribe for this webpage to take
    newest updates, thus where can i do it please help.

    Here is my website: scr888 version 3.0

    January 11, 2021 at 7:53 am |
  15. Sharron

    Hі! I кnow thiѕ is kinda off topic however I'd figured I'd ask.
    Would you be interested in еҳchɑnging links or maybe guest writing a bⅼog article or
    ѵice-versa? My bloց dіscusѕеs a lot of the same subjects as yours and
    I think we could greatly Ьenefit from each otһer.
    If you might be interested feel fгeе to shoot me
    an emaіl. I looк forward to hearing from you! Fantastic blog by the way!

    Look into my web site swellings

    January 11, 2021 at 12:59 pm |
  16. face mask

    Sounds quite interesting. Would it be ok to counter with a question? It's just that..I can think of some other ideas that support this.

    January 11, 2021 at 5:17 pm |
  17. Maura

    Wow thаt was odd. I just wrote an very long cⲟmmеnt but after Ӏ clicked submit my comment didn't ѕhow up.
    Grrrr... well I'm not writing all that over again. Regardless, just
    wanted to say great blog!

    my web pаge ... fruition

    January 11, 2021 at 10:06 pm |
  18. Anya

    are vapes bad for secondhand smoke

    January 12, 2021 at 9:00 am |
  19. Julia

    how to get vapid hotknife

    January 12, 2021 at 10:41 am |
  20. Karina

    are pop vape disposable

    January 12, 2021 at 5:20 pm |
  21. Fgvdwhilk

    best online canadian pharmacy tops pharmacy north drug store

    January 12, 2021 at 11:44 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

Post a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.