Scott Samuelson wrote a very good piece in the Opinion pages of the WSJ making two excellent points.
- Liberally educated people do in fact make more money on average than non liberally educated people.
- Liberal education is not about making money!
The myth that studying the humanities doesn’t pay was recently exploded by the Association of American Colleges and Universities and the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems.
Their study, released in January, analyzed Census Bureau data on the education and occupation of about three million U.S. residents. It found that “at peak earnings ages (56-60 years) workers who majored as undergraduates in the humanities or social sciences earn annually on average about $2,000 more than those who majored as undergraduates in professional or pre-professional fields.”
So there it is. This is the empirical data that we have all been waiting for, right?
But then Samuelson writes,
Thinking of the value of the humanities predominately in terms of earnings and employment is to miss the point. America should strive to be a society of free people deeply engaged in “the pursuit of happiness,” not simply one of decently compensated and well-behaved employees.
A true liberal-arts education furnishes the mind with great art and ideas, empowers us to think for ourselves and appreciate the world in all its complexity and grandeur. Is there anyone who doesn’t feel a pang of desire for a meaning that goes beyond work and politics, for a meaning that confronts the mysteries of life, love, suffering and death?
Despite his confusing the term “humanities” with a “liberal-arts education,” I like this man!