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The Uselessness of Liberal Arts Degrees

Updated on June 19, 2013

Let's be honest, most people who come out of college with a degree in the humanities and liberal arts have just wasted about 100 grand for an "education" where they didn't learn anything that they couldn't have learned themselves. I know this from first hand experience. I learned way more just by reading books on the subjects I was interested in than I did sitting in classes where a professor told me what to read and write a report on it. History, international relations, politics, political science, art history, diplomacy, philosophy, psychology, languages, English literature etc. are topics where following a course of study laid out by biased instructors will get you nowhere. These are subjects that can be learned at your own pace and to a much deeper level and for virtually no money. All you need is a library card and an internet connection.

If your goal is to learn a language then you'd be better off spending that money on moving to a country where your chosen language is spoken and just living there for a year or two. You will learn the language much quicker and much better than sitting in classrooms for 4-6 years in the US. Languages can best be learned by being immersed in it. You will also learn the language as it is actually spoken, slang and all, instead of the dry academic language taught at colleges and universities. Also, you will learn how to live in a different culture, something no colleges can teach. All of this for less money than a college BA or MA.

If you are really interested in any of the topics mentioned above, you can best learn them by reading, reading, and reading. There is no longer any need to colleges to tell us what books we should read in order to get an education in any given topic in the humanities. We can all search on the internet and make our own choices as to what to read, what not to read, what to believe and what not to believe.

To be clear I am focusing on humanities degrees and not degrees in medicine, engineering, rocket science etc. where students need specialized training using expensive equipment that they need training in. For these students college is the only way, and there is no problem with that. It is the humanities, however, which draws the most students every year. There is nothing special about being told to read this and that and then to write a thesis paper on it. You don't need to spend tens of thousands of dollars to be able to read books. This is a major scam, especially as students with BAs and MAs are not finding jobs.

People who want a liberal arts education should do in in just that way: liberally, and not in an institution which is out to make money off of some BS lectures. People how go into philosophy, history, languages etc. most likely already know quite a bit about these subjects before entering college, where they spend years relearning things they they already know. I found this to be true personally. I cannot really honestly remember anything that I "learned" in college which I didn't know already of which I didn't come across in my own readings on my chosen topics. It was boring and unchallenging at best, extremely frustrating and a waste of time and money at worst.

Liberal Arts are best studied individually and not worth going to college for. Sure, college might give us some new insights into topics that we might want to explore further, but these discoveries we can make on our own during our own reading as well.


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    • Old-Empresario profile image

      Old-Empresario 3 years ago

      A major misconception people in the US have about college is that it is a trade school. It's not. It's simply a place of higher education. There is no job guarantee for anyone. Sure, there are some professions that require "trade" degrees, like engineering, medicine or law. But these professions didn't always require degrees until the leading intellectuals of these fields began lobbying for stricter educational requirements to keep "Joe Bag'o Donuts" out. Even today, most people with degrees in architecture, law, business and computer science are either unemployed or under-employed. Yes; I said "most". More than 50% of people with degrees in these fields don't use their degrees in any professional way. College was never really meant for the middle class. It's a place for the intellectual and cultural elites within a society to become educated so that they can lead public and private institutions competently. The humanities is perfect for that. This is why so many politicians and leaders of various federal and state departments are history majors or sociology majors as undergrads.

    • frantisek78 profile image

      frantisek78 3 years ago

      @Faith, thanks for reading and commenting!

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 3 years ago from southern USA

      This certainly rings true for my daughter who has a Liberal Arts degree and no job, after paying 100 grand to go to such college. But I can see both sides too in at least having the degree.

      Interesting article.

    • profile image

      George DeMarse 5 years ago

      Most of this is hooey and sounds like a frustrated college student who did not do very well--and did not have the aptitude for STEM.

      I can identify with that--but your premises and conclusions are neglecting important social factors.

      The big one being: employers don't care what you "self learn." An employer can't determine from your resume whether you "self learned" 19th Century German Idealism or the Romantic Poetry of the English Lake Country--and probably would not care.

      What the employer "would" notice is a degree credential or lack thereof. The credential alone can get you into jobs you would not get without the credential.