Should students choose between a tech degree or liberal arts? We're missing the point!
JM Olejarz makes a compelling argument for the value of a liberal arts education and the role of the humanities.
If we want to prepare students to solve large-scale human problems, Hartley argues, we must push them to widen, not narrow, their education and interests. He ticks off a long list of successful tech leaders who hold degrees in the humanities. To mention just a few CEOs: Stewart Butterfield, Slack, philosophy; Jack Ma, Alibaba, English; Susan Wojcicki, YouTube, history and literature; Brian Chesky, Airbnb, fine arts. Of course, we need technical experts, Hartley says, but we also need people who grasp the whys and hows of human behavior.
It's compelling, but I'm not buying it. It's yesterday's solution applied to today's problem. In the final analysis, a "practical education" may have more to do with the nature of learning than the notion of a particular degree program.
A structured degree program—those of yesterday—may serve the system of colleges and universities, but the entire process of learning is shifting thanks to a Professor named Google. Today, and certainly tomorrow, information is less the domain of the educational system. And importantly, our trip to the classroom can be often replaced by a trip to computer screen. These engagements will only be enhance by augmented and virtual reality. Just imagine sitting in your living room watching Carl Sagan explain the nuances of astronomy. That lecture is just around the corner.
The compartmentalization of education (academic departments, undergraduate and undergraduate programs, for example) is similar to the traditional silos of business and industry that have long halted innovative thinking and collaboration. Today, corporate innovation is breaking down yesterday's wall of exclusion to build a new model of inclusion.
And beyond curriculum, the active discussion today asks if college is even worth it. A few years ago, Erika Anderson wrote a very personal story in Forbes that rings true today:
I’m convinced there are some people for whom college is simply not the best way to learn. I was one of them; I left college in my senior year, and have built a wonderful and successful life for myself. My son is clearly one, as well. He came to me half-way through his second year in college and said, “Mom, this is a waste of my time and your money. This is not how I’m going to learn to be a grown-up.” He left school, kept working in the restaurant business, and now he’s about to open his own place with two partners. He learned on the job; by creating relationships with a wide variety of people with the experience and skills he wanted; by reading; through conversation and observation.
The real focus in the technological age is to teach how to learn and be more flexible with what to learn. Shakespeare and Newton will have a key place in academic studies. Silo-busting in education can now be a practical solution because we are empowered by the richness of the vast resources at our digital fingertips.
As the premise of the Harvard Business Review article suggests, education today is about diversity. But that must include the diversity of the learning model itself and how technology offers solutions and alternatives to those ivy covered buildings that are too often the source of myopic wisdom.
John is the #1 global influencer in digital health and generally regarded as one of the top global strategic and creative thinkers in this important and expanding area. He is also one the most popular speakers around the globe presenting his vibrant and insightful perspective on the future of health innovation. His focus is on guiding companies, NGOs, and governments through the dynamics of exponential change in the health / tech marketplaces. He is also a member of the Google Health Advisory Board, pens HEALTH CRITICAL for Forbes--a top global blog on health & technology and THE DIGITAL SELF for Psychology Today—a leading blog focused on the digital transformation of humanity. He is also on the faculty of Exponential Medicine. John has an established reputation as a vocal advocate for strategic thinking and creativity. He has built his career on the “science of advertising,” a process where strategy and creativity work together for superior marketing. He has also been recognized for his ability to translate difficult medical and scientific concepts into material that can be more easily communicated to consumers, clinicians and scientists. Additionally, John has distinguished himself as a scientific thinker. Earlier in his career, John was a research associate at Harvard Medical School and has co-authored several papers with global thought-leaders in the field of cardiovascular physiology with a focus on acute myocardial infarction, ventricular arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death.