Monday, June 12, 2017

In Defense of a Liberal Education

Wow it has been two years since I published in this blog. For sure times flies and not having an intentional plan to write here makes it difficult, but times come and go. So here we are!

Fareed Zakaria in his book "In Defense of a Liberal Education" is giving us an insightful understanding for the reason of the "American" economic dominance. Let me first say that the use of "American" in this context is simplistic and reductionist as it refers to only the USA. We all know that America is much more than the USA and that even the USA is not isolated from the rest of the world. But let's use the term for now. Also let's make sure that we are not using the word "Liberal" in connection to the political framework prevalent in the USA now, here the word is related to an educational style that is not centered in what is called "professionalism" or the use of education to find a job. As a Professor of Physical Science myself, I find it hard to use the word profession for a lower, shallower understanding of reality.

When economists look at the economy isolated from the social and physical realities that surround our lives, they can get misguided ideas about the solutions to a economical problem. It sound like unfounded to say this because if it is an economic problem it should have an economic solution, right? Well not really, that is what you learn when being educated by the Liberal Arts. These arts help us to see things in their context, and to find solutions outside of the box. When Steve Jobs used his experience gained when learning calligraphy at Reed College in Portland Oregon (Where he dropped out after a year) he was opening the design of the Apple's "Graphical User Interface" that made it so user friendly and a terrific business success. This is the power of thinking outside the box in problem solving skills.

It has been well known that the intersection of disciplines of science has brought new frontiers to be explored, think about socio-biology created by E. O. Wilson; Biophysics that has enabled an understanding of the processes and mechanisms in biology; Geophysics that has opened doors into the understanding of volcanoes, earthquakes and other processes on the earth surface and interior. The number of examples about this expansion of vision when several sciences come together is so great that it would take much more that one book, not alone one article here to explore. I will continue with this latter on.

Books have been written about the connection between psychology and business. The connection is called psychonomy! Some like Robert Koppel's "Investing and the Irrational Mind" explore the idea that Emotional Intelligence is the main driver of our actions, many times appearing to be illogical or irrational, but effective when the intuition of the subject is well rounded and efficient. These treatises will base their assumptions that there is a well rounded context formed opinion on which these decisions are made. This is for me the best support for a well rounded-context forming Liberal Arts Education is critical for our society.

The more you know about reality surrounding you, the more you will base your insight (sometimes called intuition) in it!