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Letter: Liberal arts important to career

Commencement at Columbia University in New York City.

Commencement at Columbia University in New York City. (May 17, 2012) Credit: Getty Images

Kudos to Hofstra University president Stuart Rabinowitz for addressing an educational trend that bodes poorly for America's future ["A liberal arts education is still relevant," Opinion, Feb. 10]. At a time when young people don't capitalize the pronoun "I" and are perfectly content to substitute "l8r" for later, the thought of diminishing the importance of liberal arts should scare all of us.

As an English teacher for more than three decades, currently teaching SUNY graduate students, I can attest to the paucity of proper language skills in way too many college graduates. While STEM -- science, technology, engineering and math -- is seen as the path to returning the United States to its place as a world leader in innovation and entrepreneurship, the reality is that without a strong foundation in liberal arts, there will be a weakened ability to communicate. This should not be acceptable to anyone. In every career, the need to competently read, write and speak will come into play.

As Rabinowitz reminds us, it is surely imprudent to push students "to pick a major based solely on perceived or projected career potential." I remember many years of telling my seniors to find something they love and then aim to do it for a living. Is this always possible? No, I understand that it is not. However, I strongly believe that when it comes to career advice, we should still do everything possible to avoid trying to put a square peg into a round hole. If that occurs, everyone loses.

Thoreau famously reminded us that "the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation." Educators, parents, career counselors -- all of us -- should help young people identify and then pursue their personal passion rather than suggest they sacrifice their dreams for a career they never truly wanted. Buildings are strongest when their foundations are solid and well built. We should look at liberal arts the same way; it's the strong base that will uphold all future education.

Judi Weissman, Kings Park