Home CommentaryStudent Life The B.A. and beyond: Why your arts education will pay off after all

The B.A. and beyond: Why your arts education will pay off after all

by Archives February 8, 2006

MONTREAL (CUP) — In their early days, universities were places for intellectuals, radicals, and artists to create a lasting body of knowledge and foster a culture devoted to understanding the world.

Students received instruction in all disciplines, from languages, theology and mathematics – which are still taught today – to military engineering, dancing, and fencing – which are a bit less common.

Students were taught in close, personal settings. At Oxford University in England, the first English language university in the world, students frequently engaged in discussions with their professors, rather than passively listening to lectures that could have been prepared years ago.

The system wasn’t ideal, however. Higher education was virtually forbidden to anyone other than rich, well-connected, white men. Universities were often overtly religious, and teaching atheism was forbidden.

Times have changed. An increasing number of prospective university students think that classical education is a waste of time. Students are treated like numbers rather than people. It is possible to attend class and never speak to your professor, and with the advent of recorded lectures and online discussion groups, you’re able to ace a course you’ve never attended at all.

Many students are electing to attend community colleges instead of universities, finding it necessary to learn a skill or trade. A simple B.A. no longer seems to cut it in a competitive global job market.

Traditional education in a modern world

Every arts undergrad has likely been asked the common, “So, what are you studying?” question from well-meaning acquaintances, only to meet them with a blank stare. “Oh. So…you want to be a teacher, then.”

Detractors of the classical arts education claim that students with B.A.s have no marketable skills. The clich

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