The Value of a Liberal Arts Education

7 07 2010

I test drove literally every degree program that the humanities department at my colleges offered before ultimately earning a bachelor’s degree in English. Even though we were some of the brightest, most creative and unique students on campus and even though we took the most interesting classes, being able to write a paper on the role of misogyny in Hamlet or being able to thoroughly explain the difference between an Italian sonnet and a Shakespearean sonnet has yet to earn me a single job.

God knows I spent many a sleepless night in college asking myself, “what in the hell are you going to do with a degree in (depending on the semester and college: philosophy, history, religion, political science or English), but through it all, I never once considered pursuing a degree outside the field of humanities. For me, and many other liberal arts students, college was never about developing marketable skills, but rather about the pursuit of knowledge and honing our analytical skills, which in turn produces students prepared for any field.

You learn early on the importance of detail, whether it be reading in context or even the placement of a comma, in the process of formulating an argument. Likewise, you learn to identify the weaknesses of opposing arguments, whether by spotting the gross misrepresentation of facts or the use of faulty logic and reasoning by an opponent to strengthen an argument.

Obviously, this is similar to the practice of law. On behalf of the client, we aim to construct effective arguments based on the evaluation of facts.  We strengthen these arguments by integrating our knowledge and understanding of laws, statutes and codes, relying on sound logic and by exploiting the weaknesses of opposing arguments. The attorney serves as the chief architect of arguments, while paralegals and support staff work together with the attorney to make their blueprint a reality.