Liberal arts as a liberator

Whether or not a liberal arts education is relevant and of any use, is a debate that never dies


Haniya Javed July 05, 2015

Whether or not a liberal arts education is relevant and of any use, is a debate that never dies. While many credit these subjects for their rational and critical thinking approach, others have always put them down for being ‘good-for-nothing’ as they may not offer monetary and career prospects as perhaps, a business and finance student may find. Nonetheless, a liberal arts study can do wonders for those students who find themselves in a dilemma as to what area to pursue for higher studies. A liberal arts degree can give a student a taste of a wide spectrum of subjects, enabling the student to realise his or her true calling.

As someone who experienced this first hand and made some very erratic decisions of jumping from one field of study to the other, liberal arts study, literally, liberated me. The holistic nature of the subjects, from topics as abstract as poetry in literature classes, to technical nitty-gritties in economics, exposed me to a world that I didn’t know existed.

An exposure to these myriads of subjects at a time when students find themselves at a crossroads, wanting to do something they are passionate about and not ruling out the possibility of making a professional career out of their passion, can be extremely rewarding as they may find the opportunity to discover themselves in the process. At the same time, the fear of not landing a job can also be dealt with by majoring in more than one subject and polishing one’s skills. After all, employers are looking for people who are qualified and fit enough to deal with job challenges.

One cannot ignore the collective societal response against those who actively pursue a liberal arts education, and not only as a last option. People don’t take you seriously and you are, more often than not, regarded as someone who is killing time and has a non-serious attitude towards life. It is to fight this type of mindset that humanities and liberal arts education, in my view, is needed in Pakistani society. We need people who can think critically and not follow the rut of the collective mindset. The void of leadership, general road-side ethics, morality and simple humanity can be learnt if our young people make a conscious effort to broaden their horizons, less by only projecting themselves as ‘liberals’, and more by indulging in some actual academic liberal studies.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 5th, 2015.

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