One of the debates surrounding college education in the United States is about its purpose: should it provide more job training (specialized, professional programs) or a broader approach (liberal arts, interdisciplinary)? Heather Wilson, a former US Representative and Rhodes Scholar, argues that current Rhodes Scholar applicants (and college students in general) would benefit from a broader approach:
I detect no lack of seriousness or ambition in these students. They believe they are exceptionally well-educated. They have jumped expertly through every hoop put in front of them to be the top of their classes in our country’s best universities, and they have been lavishly praised for doing so. They seem so surprised when asked simple direct questions that they have never considered.
We are blessed to live in a country that values education. Many of our young people spend four years getting very expensive college degrees. But our universities fail them and the nation if they continue to graduate students with expertise in biochemistry, mathematics or history without teaching them to think about what problems are important and why.
Wilson suggests that ability or smarts are not the issue. Rather, it is a matter of perspective: why does a college student desire to become a world-class doctor or scholar? Can these students help address the questions that humanity has raised for millenniums?
This sounds like someone making a good case for the liberal arts. Instead of specializing at the undergraduate level (which comes in graduate programs anyway), students are encouraged to take classes in a number of subjects they may not otherwise encounter. Throughout this broader curriculum, students learn about the varied approaches for answering these big questions and how different disciplines would propose solving the big issues.