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Ryan Christiansen, Fargo, Published December 12 2013

Letter: Money, not vision, drives MSUM bus

The loss of liberal arts faculty at Minnesota State University Moorhead is just one more indicator for how our educational system is broken, and not just at MSUM, but on a national scale. The focus now is on the student as a consumer and in marketing to that consumer: billboards say “Youniversity” and “It’s all about you.” When college administrators are asked to make data-driven business decisions, and when not every aspect of the problem can be quantified objectively, programs in liberal arts education hit the cutting room floor, even when those same administrators know that cutting liberal arts is not a good decision from an educational standpoint. Their hands are tied because money instead of vision now drives the bus. Until recently, it seemed MSUM had been bucking this national trend, but now we’re “all in” and throwing education to the profiteers.

In his recent book, “Is College Worth It?”, former U.S. Secretary of Education William J. Bennett notes that in the past, a traditional liberal arts education “often produced individuals who didn’t question whether their degree qualified them for a job. And they were equipped with knowledge that has been historically instrumental to intellectual and moral flourishing no matter what their vocation.” In other words, a liberal arts-educated student is equipped with the confidence that you can do any job at all. This is exactly the type of confidence my college education during the late 80s and early 90s at the U of M and MSUM instilled in me. As a student, my expectations were not that I was receiving job skills training, but a transformative change in my approach to life. The world became my oyster, at least in terms of my confidence.

I wish for today’s students to enjoy that same level of confidence, especially in the face of the adversity that our nation will experience during the coming years.