by Martin Cothran
The common wisdom is that the more technical and vocational education you offer students, the better they will do in business and technical professions. This view has long been contested by those who point to a large and growing body of evidence that a narrow education produces narrow human beings whose job prospects are correspondingly narrowed, not expanded, by short-sighted educational policymakers.
According to a new article in the Atlantic, the heavy emphasis on vocational training and the lack of emphasis on the liberal arts does not help students when it comes to their ability to advance to the higher ranks of the very professions they are purportedly being prepared for:
American undergraduates are flocking to business programs, and finding plenty of entry-level opportunities. But when businesses go hunting for CEOs or managers, “they will say, a couple of decades out, that I’m looking for a liberal arts grad,” said Judy Samuelson, executive director of the Aspen Institute’s Business and Society Program.
According to the Atlantic, it’s a problem colleges and universities themselves are starting to recognize. They are concerned, says the article, about the burgeoning number of business majors (one in five of all college majors) who may have technical skills, but do not have the broader skills they need to advance that can only be gained from the liberal arts.
There’s good reason for their concern. Put simply, business majors seem to be graduating with some of the technical skills they’ll need to secure jobs, but without having made the gains in writing or critical-thinking skills they’ll require to succeed over the course of their careers, or to adapt as their technical skills become outdated and the nature of the opportunities they have shifts over time.
A 2014 study of the Collegiate Learning Assessment test—administered to some 13,000 undergraduates as they entered and exited university—found that business, health, and education majors substantially underperformed students in the humanities, sciences, social sciences, and engineering. The authors then adjusted their results to account for the academic abilities of students entering these majors—and found that business and education majors still showed substantially lower gains in writing, complex reasoning, and critical thinking by the time they’d graduated.
Read the rest here.