A Case for Learning How to Think

Submitted to us for publication and printed with permissions
By Chris Nichols and Dr Shanon Brooks

American higher education has evolved through a series of phases that reflect the changing times and perceived needs of the country.  The latest phase placed a heavy emphasis on specialized degree fields and very little emphasis on critical thinking skills.     

In other words, the focus is on WHAT to think, not HOW to think.  

Advances in technology are having an equalizing effect on specialized education, and we are entering a world where such training is often no longer the determining factor for new hires. Proficiency in problem solving, analysis, and communication are becoming more and more the skills necessary to compete.

Studying the classical liberal arts focuses more on broad knowledge, critical thinking, history and it's repercussions and the great ideas and questions that have driven Western Civilization for two millennia.  By studying the classics, they inspire deep thinking, intelligent questions and spirited debate.  They require study, analysis and the ability to clearly communicate - all skills that have been, until recently, lost or pushed aside in favor of specialization.

Consider this excerpt from this article: “Choosing a College: Liberal Arts vs. Professional Training”, Written By Michele Helies, Published August 16, 2006
"We are educating people for the rest of their lives at Wellesley, not just for the work place," said Andy Shennan, dean at Wellesley College, a women's institution in Massachusetts.  
While Dean Shennan understands parents' concerns about large tuition bills, and what their child is receiving out of their education, he urges them to think about how quickly society and technology is changing, and the fact that it has become the norm to have multiple jobs within a lifetime.

"It is simply implausible today to give students a narrow occupational education," Shennan said.

There will always be a need for specialization, but we must not completely reject the values of a classical liberal arts education.  Instead, there must be a balance between the two, but beginning with a liberal arts education promises greater opportunity to adapt to change and excel in the specialized field.    

More information go to: Monticello College