There is a huge misconception – especially in India – that a Liberal Arts college degree does not provide you with the skills good enough for financial stability. Majoring in the humanities or arts immediately invalidates employment credentials and presupposes a lower IQ. Never-mind that EQ is given no weightage in this process, even though studies prove the dual importance of both quotients for overall success, sometimes even favouring EQ. Regardless, a liberal arts major has begun to carry the label of intellectual incompetency.
However, after experiencing work in a non-academic setting, I found more than 50% of those I spoke to, with a background akin to the liberal arts claimed they sought purpose in work. Without the so-called “fuzzier” side of education, individuals were often unable to identify why they worked aside from money and security. Contrastingly, those trained in the humanities and social sciences were able to identify topics like worker satisfaction and how to effectively align one’s own dreams with formal work. “Fuzzies” were able to emotionally connect and empathise with people in several sections of the industry. This not only gave them the tools to recommend policy changes and creative ideas, but enabled them to explain why; to cause the tangible reaction and make changes. In short, the ability to recognise the real impact any company policy had on its employees was better developed in those with a partial or entire Liberal Arts background.
However, purpose has turned into a trend more than a value. I have yet to come across a career site, brand book or advertisement that does not mention one or more of “purpose”, “impact”, “change”, “meaning”, or “action”. Marketers have capitalised on these now catch phrases because they contain value. Each one of the quoted words bears a hefty weight, essential not only for meaningful work, but also for life. But how do you really embody any of them? It is not just listening to a presentation about the brand’s core values and yes, “purpose statement”. It is developing self-awareness and a larger outlook from the raw, primal human nature that comprises all individuals. Be it Aristotle’s four elements of fire, water, earth and wind, or skin and bones – the core of human nature is the seat of true purpose. The “authentic self” that is buried within the formal education system’s standardised tests and syllabi is the only real tool that creates human connection and success. Tapping into that self is essential. Every success needs evolution and adaptation. Delving into the root of global scenarios, understanding why they are linked to individual action and building constructive outcomes cannot be taught through textbooks.
Creativity relies on this; it goes beyond graphics and words. It touches on the thirst individuals feel for a better life in a world wrought with injustice at every instant of history. Creativity expounds upon “creation” – it is not a gimmick to build image. Realising this, and incorporating this value into any life pursuit is only possible when one has imbibed the value themselves. Undergoing the journey of self-exploration and discovering new passions is one of the most rewarding experiences of human life. It is directly related to meaning and purpose. It is directly related to happiness. It defines an education that is not limited to the classroom, but one that encourages study that goes beyond figures and facts. The Liberal Arts are not a waste of time, rather are skill for a better future.
By Mamta Saraogi
Bates College, Class of 2021
References: Harltey, Scott. The Fuzzy and the Techie. 2017