There seems to be a disconnect between public discourse and employer needs related to the arts and humanities in the job market. Parents seem to be guiding their children into majors that will “land them jobs,” worried that the arts and humanities will be useless for the future life and career of their offspring. Policy makers, politicians, and even university presidents seem to be cutting programs and budgets, emphasizing the importance of science and technology learning at the expense of the arts and humanities. Yet despite loud and public cries about the decline and death of the humanities, I find it most puzzling that employers consistently emphasize the need for students with solid backgrounds in the fields of English, Foreign Languages and Cultures, Philosophy, Classics, Ethics, Art or Music, among many others. Just today, CNNMoney published a report on the availability of high paying jobs for individuals with foreign language competency. Many other voices, as found on this website, emphasize the importance and need for students with deep knowledge in these fields. The consensus is that individuals with a background in the arts and humanities make better leaders, thinkers, contributors, and innovators.
Data also underline these observations and impressions. For instance, Hunter Rawlings, President of the Association of American Universities, noted that a survey of employers by his association indicated that 73% rejected the trend towards narrow technical training and wanted colleges and universities to place more emphasis on critical thinking and analytic reasoning. A more recent study done by the Association of American Colleges and Universities found that 78% of employers preferred job applicants knowledgeable about global issues and societies and cultures outside the U.S.; 80% found written and oral communication key; and 82% favored those with civic knowledge, skills, and judgment essential for contributing to the community and to our democratic society.
So why this disconnect? Why is it that we read one article after another about the lacking value and appreciation of the arts and humanities when there are many voices and measured outcomes that indicate otherwise?