by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
George Leef’s latest Martin Center column assesses the ongoing relevance of a liberal arts college education.
One person who doesn’t agree that a liberal arts education is a waste of time is Randall Stross. Stross majored in Chinese history, went on work in Silicon Valley, wrote a column for the New York Times (“Digital Domain”), has written several books including The Launch Pad, and is currently a professor of business at San Jose State University.
His latest book is entitled A Practical Education: Why Liberal Arts Majors Make Great Employees. As he sees things, the big problem is that while top business executives say they prize the abilities that liberal arts majors have, their subordinates don’t.
Interviewed by Inside Higher Ed about his book, Stross said, “Chief executives tend to advocate for hiring graduates with the analytical and communication skills that a liberal education sharpens, but the managers or teams who make the actual hiring decisions have in recent years sought instead something else, what they call the ability of a new hire ‘to hit the ground running.’” They doubt that a student can do that without a STEM major or a career-oriented degree.
The purpose of A Practical Education is, Stross says, to “nudge” the business world back toward considering what liberal arts majors can do. He goes about that by presenting case studies of a number of recent Stanford graduates who managed to find good employment in tech companies despite having studied the liberal arts. Those cases are illuminating, and not just because they pertain to elite university liberal arts majors. They also tell us a lot about the post-college job search that most American grads face.