Why Broad Educations Matter

Why Broad Educations Matter

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In a time when public school budgets are under constant attack, and extracurricular activities are dismissed as playtime, the US educational system continues to lag in the international rankings. Some blame wasted money, others blame teachers, and others still blame the required teaching to tests that has become the norm in many classrooms to maintain federal funding. And yet the solutions that continue to come are charter schools that emphasize only one subject, and dismiss others as prerequisites to be taken and ignored, and the interplay between very different subjects is not considered at all.

Well-Rounded- What is it?

At most liberal arts schools, students of the arts and sciences are required to attain a well-rounded education. Though they still have a major, there is not a trade-school level focus on a single subject. It is through this that the philosophy of the school believes that they succeed the most. A student with a well-rounded education may have a major in something like business, but they are versed in sociology, science, and history, for example. These skills may allow them some insight in how to motivate large groups, to choose the most innovative biotech idea to bring to their supervisor to fund, or to understand what risky international forces may escalate to, given similar pre-war conditions, and to pull their company’s funds and people in time. Had they merely been versed in the basics of business, they may have missed both opportunity and risk that were seen with a bigger picture education.

Disparate Degrees

One way in which some people are helping to attain this well-rounded education within the confines of more focused degrees is to gain multiple graduate degrees. MD/PhD programs have become more common, and occasionally MD/JD degrees. Though this will make some people too specialized to hire easily, the jobs that do come are often substantial, such as being the President of a company, and the value that these people can provide shows in surprising places.

One example of this is the White House Economic Recovery Advisory Board member Charles Phillips. Phillips has attained degrees in computer science, a law degree and an MBA. He demonstrates the well-roundedness by working in financial and computer industries, and serving on the boards of groups like the natural history museum and Jazz at Lincoln center. This makes him, in many ways, more valuable than someone who merely works as an economist, because he understands multiple industries, and can give knowledgeable, out of the box solutions drawn from very different disciplines.

Bringing Well-Roundedness Back to Education

One of the biggest reasons to consider interdisciplinary learning is that it gives students with a fear of a subject, like math or english, the opportunity to draw from a strong subject while also learning a weaker one. As confidence is shown to be one of the reasons that kids don’t give themselves the opportunity to learn from initial failures, choosing a combination of subjects to play off of one another can give students who fear one subject the confidence to try as they excel in a different portion of a task. Will this solve the problem of the US slipping in education rankings? Perhaps, perhaps not. It will, however, make for a much more interesting generation of future conversationalists with the ability to reach beyond convention for innovative solutions.

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