Liberal arts classes aren’t frills, writes Rob Jenkins, an English professor at Georgia Perimeter College. Students prepare for success in the workforce by learning to write, analyze and solve problems in liberal arts classes.
Many Americans learn at a two-year college most of what they will ever learn—in a formal setting, at least—about writing, critical thinking, the history of our culture and civilization, the environment, and human behavior.
. . . Employers rank communication and analytical skills among the most important attributes they seek in new hires, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers. Perhaps those of us who teach those very skills at community colleges should embrace the integral role we play in preparing the nation’s workers rather than rejecting the idea of work-force development as somehow beneath us.
Communicating clearly in writing is a key to business success, so “one of the best things we can do for students is to require them to write—a lot,” Jenkins argues.
Employers complain that many workers have difficulty thinking for themselves.
How many of us actually require our students to analyze material in an in-depth way (as opposed to providing them with convenient study sheets)? How many of us require them to draw inferences, make connections, reach and defend conclusions? Our liberal-arts courses are the ideal places to teach those cognitive skills that students need to be successful in the workplace.
Finally, liberal-arts instructors should connect what students are learning in class to the “real world.”