Major in Liberal Arts Mashup

In his 48 minute keynote address at MIT’s recognition of its own milestone – “the complete publication of virtually the entire MIT curriculum, more than 1,800 courses” – Thomas Friedman said, The most important economic competition going forward is between you and your own imagination.” Friedman’s straight talk included his appeal for the US Congress and the White House to get over what he facetiously called their motto of being “Dumb as we wanna be” and instead offering the country a revolution for innovation that includes addressing standards, regulations, incentives and taxes so that we do not miss out on the economic tsunami that is not China, but individuals collaborating with individuals around the globe.

To that end, that Americans must participate in the global economy equipped not only with our work ethic, but also with our imaginations of what could be possible. Imagination will not be enough; we must then make those things happen. To do that, Friedman believes the best educational preparation is interdisciplinary. He feels bringing liberal arts into the equation sparks inspiration and that people should have two specialties so that they can apply the framework of one to the framework of the other – a mental mashup of sorts.

This is good news for those of us teaching literature – all those engineering types better take a poetry course or two. It could be a wake up call too for all those human resources types that write job ads – why restrict consideration for jobs only to potential candidates based only on the degrees they hold? In the future, perhaps all  job seekers will need to build viewable portfolios of their accomplishments rather a textual timeline of what offices they have sat in.

So, I thought that portfolio thing up myself while listening to Friedman’s address on my laptop while correcting essays and paying bills online. Which figures because my mashup is a business degree and and English Master’s. But really, it probably was just common sense that must be occurring to a lot of people. Because after listening to Mr. Friedman, I opened my email to my NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) “Inbox” newsletter that included a link to a USA Today article, that said the following:

Forget transcripts, multiple-choice tests or institutional scores. The surveyed business leaders want faculty assessment of internships, senior projects or community-based work.

“Too many policymakers and educational leaders are focused on the tests rather than on what is really important: whether students are learning what they need to know,” says Roberts Jones, president of Education & Workforce Policy, a consulting firm based in Alexandria, Va.

The survey, conducted by Peter D. Hart Research Associates, was released Tuesday by the Association of American Colleges and Universities, a non-profit national organization that promotes a liberal arts education.

“We need to invent new forms of accountability that look at such issues as global knowledge and self-direction and intercultural competence, not just at critical thinking and communication skills,” Carol Geary Schneider says. Schneider is, according to the article, the president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, a non-profit national organization that promotes a liberal arts education.

So business leaders want creative thinkers, or so they tell the colleges. But what they really want, if the ads are right, are creative thinkers with math, engineering and science degrees. Leonardo da Vincis may not grow on every tree, yet, but we better start planting the seeds for them in our schools.


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Filed under Keystrokes, Looking forward, Technology

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