Students transfering into a four-year program often wonder why they should take a broad range of liberal arts and sciences courses. And why should students in technical programs take general education courses in communication, mathematics, and writing? Why should anyone take courses outside one's own major area?

First of all, a broad range of liberal arts and sciences courses helps students gain cultural literacy. Cultural literacy, the common knowledge shared by educated people within one culture, helps us communicate better with one another, in spite of what our specific career goals or majors are. If we only focused on our chosen career path, our knowledge would be limited to that one specific area and we would have difficulty communicating intelligently with those whose career goals and job responsibilities differ from ours. In short, cultural literacy helps us become better informed about the world around us and, hence, help us develop communication skills or so-called soft skills that we can apply to a variety of contexts.

Be it mathematics, chemistry, composition, philosophy, or any other liberal arts and sciences discipline, a broad liberal arts education teaches us how to think. Any liberal arts course teaches students not only facts but also higher order thinking that involves evaluation, imagination, and logical reasoning of facts. For example, students are frequently challenged to think what other arguments, evidence, assumptions, and implications should be considered, which arguments are most relevant and powerful, or what the big picture is.

Clearly, liberal arts education also teaches us how to learn - how to seek, compare, evaluate, and imagine possible answers. I truly believe that the more we learn, the more we can learn. For example, many people have noticed that the more foreign languages they know, the easier it is to learn a new foreign language. Also, understanding the logical patterns that apply to algebra can improve our ability to see patterns in sentence structures, visual arts, musical compositions, or nature. Learning how to think and learn prepares students for easier transfer to four-year higher education institutions and to careers in the workforce.

Traditionally, liberal arts and sciences studies often involve the study of "old knowledge" - such as the practices, cultures, beliefs, and experiments of the past. Why is this important? Comparing new ideas with the old often helps clarify things and helps us see and understand the reasons why something happened or how, and what the results were. This can help us envision where we might be going next and evaluate where we should, or should not, be going.

In fact, general background in liberal arts and sciences provides us knowledge that we can use as building blocks for new ideas. The more we know, the greater resources we have for innovation and creativity. If we only specialized in one narrow field, we'd have trouble envisioning possibilities and situations that overlap, borrow from, or enhance the knowledge provided by other fields.

So, why take a broad selection of liberal arts and sciences courses? The answer is simple: a broad liberal arts education help us become better informed citizens who can think, learn, and imagine new, creative possibilities. What career or major field, business, community, or society would not benefit from people with such skills!