Blogs » J.Q. Tomanek of Victoria » Liberal Leadership


If you thought this post was going to include rants and vegetable throwing, there are plenty of other places to find it. Rather, I ran across a pretty good article on the demand for those who study the liberal arts. Of course, I am bias, my undergraduate degree is in the liberal arts. But the article mentions very valid points despite my bias.

It is not the first time I heard this. It merely has validated something I even read a few days ago regarding economics. It was about in the 1950s or so that PhD candidates stopped being required to know the history of their field. Not knowing the history means for good or ill a student may miss some of the things that went wrong and some of the things that went right. For example, usury. This word has long been gone from business and economic vocabulary. Dante spoke of it back in the early 14th century as reads Canto XVII:

“That from the neck of each a purse was hung

that had a special color or an emblem,

and their eyes seemed to feast upon these pouches.”

And Virgil explanation in Canto XI:

"From art and nature, if you will recall

The opening of Genesis, man is meant

To earn his way and further humankind.

"But still the usurer takes another way:

He scorns nature and her follower, art,

Because he puts his hope in something else.“

I went through two graduate programs without ever hearing anything in regards to usury. Dante considered usury a sin, but take a look at it simply applied to economics and it is evident to see how it negatively affects this particular science. So where did I ever hear of it? I first heard about usury from Dante in a Dante’s Divine Comedy class in my liberal arts studies. It was an elective and a great teacher was offering the course in the English department, so I waited until I knew I could get into his class.

Tony Golbsy-Smith recently blogged over at the Harvard Business Review that “People trained in the humanities who study Shakespeare's poetry, or Cezanne's paintings, say, have learned to play with big concepts, and to apply new ways of thinking to difficult problems that can't be analyzed in conventional ways.” This is another positive element on the humanities. It is similar to the reason an architect goes to Rome to study the structures. It expands a person thinking.

It is quite interesting that some of the top consulting firms also practice this advice as Golbsy-Smith indicates: “If you want another good reason to hire from the humanities, consider this: consulting firms like McKinsey and Bain like to hire them...You can hire liberal arts graduates yourself, or you can pay through the nose for a big consulting firms to hire them to do the thinking for you.” The important thing is not thinking outside boxes because like a tool box, the box keeps you within the limits, but also like tool boxes, there is often more than one tool to solve problems. Sometimes, Plato and Shakespeare can help out.