Saturday, March 3, 2018

The Case for Majoring in the Liberal Arts - Once Again

In "If You Want Your Child to Succeed, Don’t Sell Liberal Arts Short," Michael Zinn, a creative strategist at Digital Surgeons, makes the case for the liberal arts. Among other things, he quotes Albert Einstein to the effect that the "value of an education in a liberal arts college is not the learning of many facts but the training of the mind to think something that cannot be learned from textbooks.”

Here is the whole column from the Wall Street Journal, March 3, 2018. p. A13: 

Critical-thinking skills are useful in any profession, and not all classes are obscurantist or politicized.

It’s college admissions season, and every parent is mulling the perennial question: “What major will help my child get a good job?”

Standard answers today invariably center on science, technology, engineering and mathematics, often referred to as STEM. Given the skyrocketing costs of higher education, parents and students alike can be forgiven for viewing a college degree as a passport into the professional world, and STEM majors are seen as the best route to professional success.

But my advice is to let your child know that a liberal-arts degree can be a great launching pad for a career in just about any industry. Majoring in philosophy, history or English literature will not consign a graduate to a fate of perpetual unemployment. Far from it. I say this as a trained classicist—yes, you can still study ancient Greek and Latin—who decided to make a transition into the tech world.

I am far from alone. There are plenty of entrepreneurs, techies and private-equity managers with liberal-arts degrees. Damon Horowitz, a cofounder of the search engine Aardvark, holds a doctorate in philosophy. Slack founder Stewart Butterfield and LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman both earned master’s degrees in philosophy. The startup where I work employs computer programmers who studied musical composition and philosophy as undergraduates.

Throughout history it has been common for people to study subjects with no immediate relationship to their intended professions. In antiquity, education was intended to enrich students’ lives. Pragmatic benefits such as rhetorical ability, logical reasoning and business skills were welcome byproducts of a good education. The phrase “liberal arts” comes from the Latin word liberalis, meaning “worthy of a free person.” A liberal-arts education gives someone the freedom to participate fully in civic life.

Model Arab League 2017

The delegation from the Department of History and Political Science to the 2018 Model Arab League competition at Shawnee State University in Portsmouth, Ohio. Ashland represented Lebanon and were led by Dr. Greg McBrayer,

Saturday, January 27, 2018

The use of Latin in the Civil War era

A recent article by Andrew Dinan in The Classical Journal (Vol 113, No. 2) argues that Latin was quite widely used in the United States during the Civil War.  The article describes Latin poems, inscriptions, letters, and reports and essays.  Among them is an inscription at a Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts that was designed "to express, though imperfectly, the gratitude felt to those of our countrymen who have given their lives to achieve the greatest moral and social results of modern times."  The inscription nicely sums up the Civil War:

Anti-Slavery Manuscripts at the Boston Public Library

Here is an opportunity to do some interesting work with primary sources in American history. The Boston Public Library is calling for volunteers to help transcribe their extensive collection of handwritten correspondence between anti-slavery activists in the 19th century into texts that can be more easily read and researched by students, teachers, historians, and big data applications. See the website here: antislaverymanuscripts.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

The New Lyceum

A group of recently graduated History and Political Science majors and Ashbrook Scholars has started an interesting new online journal called The New Lyceum.  They have already published quite a few good articles by current and former students on all kinds of cultural, political, moral, and historical topics.  For a sample, try this nice analysis by Connor Murnane, of the Netflix series Deadwood.  Peruse many others here.

According to the website, The New Lyceum
provides analysis of current issues that affect the body politic. It does so out of a belief that man is reasonable – he can come to understand truth through rational discourse."  Expanding on this idea, the editors write that "Reason alone distinguishes Man from all other life. By the power of reason, he can discern truth. A natural byproduct of reason is disagreement. Civil disagreement leads to discourse that destroys poorly developed arguments and nurtures those arguments that lead to truth. Sadly, our culture has lost the ability to respectfully disagree. Some people only want to converse with those who think like they do. Others believe that to criticize another’s point of view is to attack their character and thus avoid serious discussions altogether. This has impoverished the political and cultural life of our country, and an effort to revive public discourse is necessary.
The New Lyceum seeks to aid that revival. We will write on a wide variety of issues, and our authors may defend opposing sides on those issues. Our articles will be written as arguments. They will not belittle and will aim to persuade those who disagree.
Nicely done Joey, Nick, Josh, and James!