Recent discussions about “liberal arts” have focused mostly on whether it is worth the cost. Some argue that an expensive education limits opportunities for students, while others believe that studying art, literature, or history cultivates skills needed to function in our increasingly interconnected world.
Still other critics say that degrees in liberal studies don’t prepare people well for jobs and instead encourage students to focus on concepts like empathy and understanding rather than practical tools such as communication or leadership strategies.
These debates miss the important role that liberal arts play in fostering innovation, though. This article will discuss why.
Liberal arts teach us how to think
One of the most overstated claims made by advocates of liberal arts education is that courses are simply training in thinking skills. According to this argument, no matter what career you pursue, learning how to apply logic, analyze arguments, and evaluate evidence are always useful life lessons.
This perspective ignores two key points, however. First, many of the classic works of Western civilization — including novels, poems, and paintings — not only use logical reasoning, but also convey profound insights and messages that go beyond pure thought. These pieces of media influence how we perceive the world around us and help form who we are as individuals.
Second, even if someone plans to become a business leader, creative thinkers may be more valuable than systematic strategists.
History of innovation
Western civilization is built upon an extensive history of innovations that have changed the way we live our lives. Historical figures such as Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Galileo, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, and many others left their marks on the world by experimenting with new ways to do things.
In fact, one could make an argument that without these innovators, life in the west would be very different today. They are linked together through a common theme – education.
Education is a powerful tool that has been used for centuries to inspire creativity, exploration, self-development, and leadership. These qualities are crucial to innovation.
As the old saying goes, “If you can’t afford a good teacher, then you should at least go to a good school”. We as a society need to reevaluate this statement. A good teacher can definitely influence someone for the better, which may cost nothing but your tuition.
There was a time when education only focused on teaching students how to read and write, how to get into well-paying jobs, and perhaps some basic concepts like mathematics. But these days, educating people seems to be moving towards creating independent thinkers who question everything about the world.
These individuals strive to develop creative thinking skills so they can find new solutions to existing problems. This is important because solving current problems requires you to think outside the box, and there are never really sure what will come out the other side.
The impact of the humanities
In today’s world, innovation seems to be moving at a breakneck speed. Technology is advancing exponentially, changing our lives in ways we could never have imagined just a few years ago.
New health treatments are being discovered all the time, technology is making it easier for us to learn new things, and creative ideas are flowing from every direction.
This whirlwind of change has got many wondering what kind of influence these innovations will have on humanity. Will they help us connect with each other more effectively? Can they strengthen communities? Or will they only benefit an increasingly big elite group?
A number of studies suggest that one thing the most successful innovators have in common is a strong education. They all have at least a bachelor’s degree or beyond.
Now, before some people get too excited about this information, you should know that there are several different types of degrees out there. Some are considered higher learning experiences like those mentioned above, while others are much weightier than that. A business administration major, for example, does not necessarily give you as much insight into how creativity functions as an economics major.
Regardless, overall educational attainment continues to rise in importance. Why? Because effective leadership comes down to having good knowledge and understanding of various subjects.
The impact of the sciences
Recent studies show that STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education is important for boosting student engagement, achievement, and success in college. However, there has been some controversy about this claim as some argue that emphasizing science, math, and technology can be limiting and even detrimental to students’ development as liberal arts majors.
Liberal arts degrees focus more on educating students through the study of literature, history, philosophy, and other areas that emphasize context, storytelling, and understanding relationships between different ideas. These are all valuable skills that many careers require.
Furthermore, some believe that encouraging students to take additional academic courses beyond their major is a way to weaken the importance of their degree program. For example, while studying psychology you may learn about neuroscience, which could strengthen your knowledge base in both fields.
However, research shows that these educational experiences help students develop broader thinking and problem-solving strategies that apply not only to academia, but also life. In fact, several studies suggest that non-STEM training is just as effective as formal STEM education in helping people succeed.
The impact of engineering
Engineering is an important field that impacts our daily lives in ways we often take for granted. Technologies like cars, airplanes, computers, phones, and so on would not exist if engineers did not create them.
Engineering can be defined as the study of how to apply force to move something or push things away, but it’s more than that. It includes thinking about what moves most efficiently, finding new applications for existing technologies, and developing creative solutions to technological problems.
Engineers are also trained in mathematics, which helps them understand the effects of their decisions and strategies. This understanding allows them to compare different options and choose the best one.
Another integral part of engineering is communication. Engineers spend time working with other people, telling them what they need to know so that they can function effectively.
And finally, engineers have a knack for organization. They are good at creating systems that work well and keep track of all the components.
All these skills — applying force, choosing efficient alternatives, communicating clearly, organizing things properly — contribute heavily to innovation.
Let’s look at some examples.
A few years ago, you might have heard stories about how technology was taking over human life. Machines were doing everything from checking email to performing surgery, because software gets better and smarter every day.
The impact of marketing
While not every student majoring in liberal arts will work for a large corporation, most do not pursue their degree with the intention to run an office without any resources or equipment. Most students are well prepared in areas such as creative writing, communication skills, and research methodology.
Many have these skills pre-undergraduate level due to exposure to literacy and media studies. However, there is no undergraduate program that teaches students how to develop a successful product or service.
This is where graduate school comes into play. Students from various departments may be tasked with designing products, conducting market research, developing advertising campaigns, etc. All of this requires understanding of marketing fundamentals so that people can perceive your offering correctly and want it.
Liberal arts degrees also teach critical thinking, which is important when trying to innovate. You must think about what effect your current approach has before moving onto something new.
The impact of management
According to research, individuals with more education are better managers than those who have less. This is because they understand how business works and can organize resources effectively.
People with higher levels of education also tend to be more confident in their abilities, which helps them work more efficiently under pressure.
It’s worth noting that confidence is not always seen as a positive quality — some people consider it over-confidence — but there are studies that show it creates an inner calm that allows you to focus on what needs doing next.
The impact of creativity
A large part of Western culture is built around encouraging individuals to pursue their dreams, and one major reason for this is that liberal arts education encourages people to value knowledge as a tool to help you achieve your goals.
Liberal arts courses focus not only on teaching students how to access information, but also how to process it so that it makes sense to you. This helps you identify the information with which you already have connections and apply it to new areas.
Education in the liberal arts includes both theoretical concepts like philosophy and psychology as well as practical skills such as writing and speaking effectively. All of these play an important role in helping you develop the ability to describe yourself as “I’m just trying to know more than anyone else,” which is a valuable skill in today’s society.
Furthermore, non-practical fields like art or music can inspire creative thinking and innovation. When someone is passionate about something they work on it frequently, constantly bringing in new ideas into it.
As we have seen, liberal arts education has many benefits that go beyond enriching your knowledge base and developing in you as an individual. They help create innovators by fostering creativity, thinking about things from multiple angles, being able to connect ideas together, and giving you tools to evaluate what is happening around you.
These are all great qualities to have in the world today. We live in a time where innovation seems to be the norm rather than the exception. Technology is moving at such a rapid pace that it can feel like there’s nothing new under the sun.
In fact, some argue that technology has become so advanced that it has surpassed human capabilities and thus created robots or machines that will take over our jobs.
While this may seem like a scary thought, I believe it presents us with an opportunity to innovate even more. By removing humans from certain tasks, we get exposed to how other people solved similar problems before and hopefully pick up something new.