Why We Need More Liberal Arts

Published December 18, 2017

Historically, American students studying liberal arts were trained in critical reasoning skills. Students were encouraged to think for themselves. Liberal arts programs stressed the achievements of Western Civilization. Unfortunately, progressive elites have declared war on liberal arts in an attempt to push their big-government agenda.

Heartland Institute research fellow Teresa Mull explains the forces behind the decline of liberal arts programs in a new op-ed titled Let’s Put an End to the Left’s Myths about the Liberal Arts. Mull argues the reduction in students matriculating in liberal arts programs is due to a concerted campaign by progressives.

My theory is that the “liberal arts is a waste of time” rumor was started by a bunch of progressive elites afraid of what might happen when people, especially young ones, started to develop their own conclusions instead of drinking the Kool-Aid served to them at government schools controlled by liberal, big-government types.

You may think such a claim is right-wing nonsense, or even silly, but before completely dismissing the idea, consider the following: First, liberals control the overwhelming majority of higher-education institutions in America, and yet many of them are the ones dismissing liberal arts and suggesting it’s useless. Second, liberals’ philosophy hinges on everyone working together like little cogs in a giant machine, an idea that fits well with advancing STEM, but doesn’t make much sense with the liberal arts. Third, liberal arts hinges on studying the classic thinkers of Western Civilization, most of whom the left has dismissed as racist, misogynistic, greedy, or homophobic.

In short, the liberal arts is a giant roadblock on the path to socialism, so why wouldn’t the left want to undermine it?

Mull presents a convincing case. Classical liberal arts programs are antithetical to the progressive agenda of more government and less freedom. Therefore, it makes perfect sense that most progressives would advocate for less liberal arts and more science, technology, engineering, and mathematics courses.

The anti-liberal arts mindset is not isolated to college campuses. It exists in high schools and middle schools as well. According to Mull,

“Broad-based learning” is being dismissed because of an ever-deepening infiltration of left-wing radicals, who, like the public K–12 teachers unions folks, see academia as the perfect place to sink their teeth and finagle the future to their evil wills. Liberal professors outnumber conservative ones 12 to one. Even the straightforward, fact-based realm of engineering is not safe from these rabid manipulators.

The bottom line is this: The liberal arts are valuable. They’re beautiful and necessary. They have, however, at many colleges and universities, been perverted by people looking to advance their own ideological agenda — one that is nihilist at best and fascist at worst. But students drawn to the examination of truth, beauty, and goodness ought not to fear. You’ll enjoy college. You’ll find a job. You’ll make good money. You won’t be liberal. And you’ll be just fine.

The decline of liberal arts programs threatens liberty. Liberal arts programs provide more than a well-rounded education. Students studying liberal arts learn how to think for themselves. No wonder progressive socialists are fervently working to undermine them.