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Liberal Arts in Crisis?

You don’t have to look hard to find news stories and books questioning the value of higher education. Bryan Caplan recently published “The Case Against Education – Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money.”

And on Fox News, Jon Stossel recently wrote: “What everyone’s afraid to say about college and jobs.”

Often, the liberal arts are a prime target of such criticism. Naysayers question the potential job opportunities a liberal arts degree offers. And in all honesty, we’ve even made similar comments on the Class Dismissed Podcast.

Making the case

Our guest on Episode 167 of the Class Dismissed Podcast sees value in the liberal arts and humanities. Dr. Andrew (AJ) Ogilvie wrote New Frames for New Futures: Translators as Metaphor for the Value of a 21st Century Liberal Arts Education, a research paper that makes a strong case for a liberal arts degree. 

Ogilvie argues that the current job market is in need of more liberal arts majors.

“Some of the challenges that places like Google and Facebook are facing are human-centered challenges,” says Ogilvie. “On how people think about privacy, on how different groups of people think about what is moral, what is right and wrong.”

Ogilvie says the kinds of knowledge many companies need right now is not necessarily the kind of education you’ll find in a textbook. He says that you need to be translating what your company does for your customers, clients, and stakeholders.


Ogilvie likes to look as those holding a liberal arts degree as “translators.” He says translators have a real feel for how language works. They understand how arranging words and concepts can be persuasive.

For example, Ogilvie notes that taking history courses is not to just remember dates and places of significant events. He says that studying history is about understanding competing stories from the past.

“The way we tell the story about the past serves a particular purpose in the future,” says Ogilvie.

To hear our full interview with Ogilvie Listen to Episode 167 of the Class Dismissed Podcast on your favorite podcast app or iTunes.

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