“In “The Future Computed: Artificial Intelligence and its Role in Society,” Microsoft president Brad Smith argues that “as computers behave more like humans, the social sciences and humanities will become even more important. Languages, art, history, economics, ethics, philosophy, psychology and human development courses can teach critical, philosophical and ethics-based skills that will be instrumental in the development and management of AI solutions.”

Likewise, arts and humanities students who can effectively marshal data and figures make better creative entrepreneurs, advocates and employees.”  (What critics of a liberal arts and sciences education are missing by Frederick M. Lawrence, Fox News)

And, yet, colleges seem to be moving in an opposite direction.

As I have commented in previous blogs, higher education is, unfortunately, crossing over into traditional training objectives — and, away from the historical aims of a higher education.  We see the movement away from a liberal arts exposure (with its attendant focus on thinking as exemplified by the great ideas and contributions made by history’s giants of thought and contribution).  Instead, we are encountering an almost exclusive emphasis on “skills training” in a specific academic discipline with the sole intent of preparing an individual for professional labor — the historical province of skills training.

An insightful column by Heather Wilson entitled, “Our Superficial Scholars, that was published by The Washington Post several years ago relates to this unfortunate shift in higher education.  (Wilson is a former Republican member of the U.S. Congress, and a former Rhodes Scholar.)

“I have, however, become increasingly concerned in recent years — not about the talent of the applicants (for Rhodes Scholarships) but about the education American universities are providing.  Even from America’s great liberal arts colleges, transcripts reflect an undergraduate specialization that would have been unthinkably narrow just a generation ago.  (It is not unusual today for a “professional major” to include nearly half of the total number of hours required for graduation!)

As a result, high-achieving students seem less able to grapple with issues that require them to think across disciplines or reflect on difficult questions about what matters and why.

. . . Our great universities seem to have redefined what it means to be an exceptional student.  They are producing top students who have given very little thought to what matters beyond their impressive grasp of an intense area of study.
This narrowing has resulted in a curiously unprepared and superficial pre-professionalism.

. . . We are blessed to live in a country that values education.  Many of our young people spend four years getting very expensive college degrees.  But our universities fail them and the nation if they continue to graduate students with expertise in biochemistry, mathematics or history without teaching them to think about what problems are important and why.”

Coupled with the current obsession for standardized testing (and, away from the traditional principles of learning) in our public school system, we should be concerned.  History is written by individuals who were informed, pondered, explored and inspired when either circumstances or education liberated their imaginations and creative talents.

More on Monday  –  –  –

 — Bill Walton, co-Founder, ITC Learning
February 13, 2019  (Mondays & Wednesdays)


 (This is a personal blog.  Any views or opinions represented in this blog are personal and belong solely to the blog owner,, an independent consultant.  They do not represent those of people, institutions or organizations that the owner may or may not be associated with in a professional or personal capacity.)