Opinion Article: Politics, America, and Liberal Arts

As a journalism student, I’ve been taught to keep my personal opinions and the news as separate as possible. A journalist should only report facts, not feelings. (Feelings are the only thing that gets ratings anymore, but that’s another story.)

Still, being under the delusion that my opinions somehow matter, I occasionally post them on the Internet, where everybody is open and polite! Today I would like to deviate from MWAS’s normal routine of puns and sarcasm to talk about something that’s never been seen on this blog before: something important!

I came across an article on Inside Higher Ed recently, discussing something that I’m surprised hasn’t come up yet in the mainstream media. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump plans to completely overhaul the federal student loan system, if he gets elected. Instead of trying to make universities cheaper, the Trump campaign wants to move the government out of the lending game and leave it to local banks. Sam Clovis, the national co-chair and policy director of Trump’s campaign said that colleges should be determining the “loan worthiness” of the student in question.

he said that colleges should not be admitting students that they aren’t confident can graduate in a reasonable time frame and find jobs. That means a shift in who is involved in deciding on student loans, with less emphasis on parent contributions and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and more of “a partnership” between the student, the bank and the college. “We think if the college has real skin in the game, it will change its model.”
And these reforms would make it legitimate for colleges and banks to make decisions in part on students’ prospective majors and their likely earnings after graduation, he said.
“If you are going to study 16th-century French art, more power to you. I support the arts,” Clovis said. “But you are not going to get a job.”

This proposed change to the loan system, essentially, would make a liberal arts education something only the rich can afford. It also comes at a time when many politicians, both Republican and Democrat, are attacking the liberal arts. They see it as a waste of time and money. As the adage goes, “I was a liberal arts major in college. Would you like some fries with that?”

In my completely *cough* unbiased opinion, this national move away from liberal arts education is not good. Liberal arts was designed to teach someone how to learn, how to think, and how to be good citizens. Many people today are only worried about how much money they can make on their first job out of college. I admit, I worry about that a lot, too. However, there are several studies that show, despite popular opinion, liberal arts majors actually don’t have a harder time finding work than their STEM counterparts, especially in the growing tech industry.

Putting the debate about job opportunities aside, the liberal arts is a key factor to ensuring democracy. A liberal arts education is designed to give people a good foundation to learn and think for their entire life. A discerning, thinking citizenry is vital for democracy to work. Besides, without the liberal arts we would see a serious decline in other areas that keep our country going.

Without liberal arts, there would be a decline in the quality of journalism. Instead of fair, balanced reporting, it would descend into “I’m right, you’re wrong!” arguments… more so than it already has.

Without liberal arts, there would be fewer historians. Facts about our past could be more easily distorted. The America of the past could be whatever whoever’s in charge wanted it to be.

Without liberal arts, we will never have the next great American novel, or the next innovation, or the next great public speaker. The next great idea that sends humanity leaping forward will not come from an American mind if the liberal arts vanish.

As Aristotle once said, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”

This is what the liberal arts sets out to do. Without it, we will only descend more into the us vs. them mentality that grips so many people, and democracy itself will begin to derail.

Then again, maybe I’m just full of it and don’t know what I’m talking about. Maybe I just don’t like seeing people bash what I’ve spent almost four years of my life studying. Who knows?