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The liberal arts: Back to basics

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Saturday, Feb. 4, 2012

A new survey should prompt renewed focus on a fundamental higher-education truth: The skills that liberal-arts studies instill -- critical thinking, logical reasoning, clear writing -- are crucial for success.

The Social Science Research Council study involved 925 college graduates who took the standardized Collegiate Learning Assessment as seniors. It found those who tested best at liberal-arts skills were "far more likely to be better off financially than those who scored lowest," according to USA Today.

They were three times less likely to be jobless, half as likely to live with their parents and far more likely to avoid credit-card debt.

The study shows "something new and different," says its lead author, a New York University professor: "Students would do well to appreciate the extent to which their development of general skills, not just majors and institutions attended, is related to successful adult transitions."

Those who have such "general skills" can better adapt to various jobs and life challenges -- an edge over those who don't. That's a result of both those skills and the self-discipline needed to master them.

It's time for both students and educators to again learn the lesson of the liberal arts' intellectual and practical value.

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