On Studying History

A major study, the Collegiate Learning Assessment, recently tested college students nationwide at the start of their freshman year and then again after two years of study to gauge how well they were learning. It asked students to read a series of documents on a political or business problem and then write a memo about how to respond to it. Liberal arts majors consistently outperformed their peers in business, communications, and other newer ‘practical’ majors. Studying liberal arts teaches you critical thinking as well as imagination, empathy, and resourcefulness. It teaches you to research, evaluate evidence, communicate, and problem solve. Rather than train you narrowly for today’s job world (which will be obsolete twenty years from now), it teaches you how to learn for a lifetime. It teaches you not what to think (which will one day be outdated) but rather how to think.

“So, You Think You Want to Study History? - bu.edu/history/undergraduate-program/why-study-history/. Boston University has produced this helpful list of advice for those interested in studying history. This quote is taken from their myth #3, “History is just old-fashioned liberal arts. I need ‘real world’ skills. I should major in something ‘sensible’ even if it’s not what I’m really excited about.” As it happens, Jeff Weiner, the CEO of LinkedIn recently commented in an interview for Wired Magazine that the greatest skills gap in the United States is “written communication, oral communication, team building, people leadership, collaboration.”