A Reflection on Classical Education and Technology Careers

As you see in our logo, we use three very carefully chosen words as the endorser under the Trinity Academy name: Innovative, Classical, and Learning.  Let’s take a minute to unpack the meaning in each of these three words:

  • Innovative – while we do use methods that have stood the test of time, we don’t continue to use techniques just because we’ve always done it a certain way. We are constantly asking ourselves how we can improve and what are the best methods to help our students learn. We are innovative (i.e. advanced and original) while remaining grounded in our primary approach to education. We avoid hopping on the latest educational band-wagon or jumping from fad to fad, by knowing who we are. That leads to the second word in our endorser….
  • Classical – our approach to instruction is Classical in nature. Here are a few primary drivers of a classical education:
    • Teaching “with the grain” in an educational context refers to easing the learning experience by employing methods and materials that resonate with the student at any given point in his cognitive development. Emerging research in the field of educational neuroscience solidly confirms that classical methodologies align with human brain development and actually aid in brain formation in ways that modern educational methods do not. A classically educated brain can adapt to virtually anything it encounters.
    • Truth, goodness, & beauty – by focusing on the themes of great books that have stood the test of time, or on the beauty, structure and order found in math, and of course the wonder and awe in the field of science, we desire to point students to truth, goodness, and beauty in all of God’s creation.
    • Content/subjects – Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric are just a few of the areas we continue to prioritize even though most progressive schools have abandoned them.
  • Learning – our emphasis is on student learning, not teacher teaching and we recognize learning takes place in many ways outside the classroom. Our end goal is to train the mind how to think, not tell our students what to think. We desire to make learning a lifelong pursuit for our students.

With this innovative classical approach to learning, there is an emphasis on the humanities without decreasing the focus on and value of the sciences and mathematics. We are convinced that the mastery of hard skills like conceptual thinking, problem solving, effective communication, and analysis gives our students a foundation that prepares them to transform tomorrow regardless of their chosen vocation.

Leading venture capitalist, Scott Hartley, author of The Fuzzy and the Techie, states it well: “Studies show that there is a skills gap on the order of a million jobs, and we need more people with STEM skills. But what I’m also arguing is that to focus so narrowly on vocational application we lose sight of the needs for passion, complex thinking, and creativity. These are the truly durable skills, not whether you can code in Ruby this year or Go next year. Tech is moving literally at the speed of light, so how do you prepare? Our education system should focus on helping kids find passion and learn to love learning, because the system, as a whole, will never keep pace with the needs of industry.”

Recent articles have explored this very idea by touting the virtues of many of the skills our instructional approach builds in students, often by classifying them as “liberal arts”. Some of these are linked below with a short explanation and a few contain a link to a longer reflection on the article.

That ‘Useless’ Liberal Arts Degree Has Become Tech’s Hottest Ticket (Forbes)

This article looks at a $2.8 billion start-up, Slack Technologies, which was founded by a philosophy major. More of my reflection can be found here.

These are the skills you should learn that will pay off forever (World Economic Forum)

This article highlights various skills that research has shown to provide the largest benefit to workers. The overarching premise of the article is that having a growth mindset (the idea that you can always learn) is every bit as important as the material about which you learn. They recommend nine skills to focus on.

Liberal Arts in the Data Age (Harvard Business Review)

Focusing on those who graduate from college with a Humanities degree, the author pulls together key ideas from three different books to argue “that to effectively tackle today’s biggest social and technological challenges, we need to think critically.” More reflection on this article can be read here.

The Importance of Liberal Arts in the AI Economy (Huffington Post)

One of the books highlighted in the article Liberal Arts in the Data Age, The Fuzzy and the Techie by Scott Hartley, is discussed in greater detail in this article, focusing on the implications in a world with an ever-increasing reliance on Artificial Intelligence. Within the article there are also video clips of a graduation address that paralleled the argument in Hartley’s book as well as takeaways from an interview with Hartley. Some highlights I found most intersting can be found here although if you jump straight to the article, you may be like me and add this book to your Christmas wish list!

Why This Tech CEO Keeps Hiring Humanities Majors (FastCompany)

With a technical background essential to founding his own company, Michael Litt’s  article explores why he is finding himself hiring more humanities majors than those with technical degrees. A few of these reasons:

  • Many of the jobs (he estimates 75-85%) at his tech company require broader skill sets than just an engineering background
  • Those with a Humanities foundation can help them “make stuff people want” instead of just “making stuff”
  • He is focusing on experience, not what is printed on a diploma

Liberal Arts Major? Here’s How to Get Hired (theladders.com)

This article provides five tips for how Liberal Arts majors, who the author views as essential, can leverage their background most effectively.

  • Major in what you love
    • Currently people swap jobs and even careers many times during their working years so major in something you are passionate about
  • Take some practical classes
    • Many Liberal Arts majors allow significant flexibility with electives so use these for some courses that appear “useful” to those in positions to hire people. Consider a course in economics, statistics, chemistry, programming, etc.
    • If possible and interested in a particular field, see if you can manage a minor.
  • Talk skills, not courses
    • Take the skills you acquired in college and apply them to the skills needed for the job for which you are applying (engaged in research, answer complicated questions, gathered evidence, persuasive writing)
  • Look for high impact experiences
    • This helps you talk skills, not courses except now you can take the skills you acquired and share a specific experience where you utilized those skills
  • Work
    • The value of work experience speaks for itself, regardless of major

Have a Liberal Arts Degree? These Companies Want to Hire You (themuse.com)

Using data from LinkedIn, a look at some common degrees and the top places hiring people with those majors. Click here to see the full list or click here first to test your own assumptions about which majors end up working where!

10 CEOs Who Prove Your Liberal Arts Degree Isn’t Worthless (Time)

This article contains quotes from 10 different CEOs who all have a Liberal Arts background. Those profiled include the CEO of Starbucks, the former CEO of the Walt Disney Company, the co-CEO of Chipotle, and the CEO of YouTube.

STEM from the Humanities (Stanford)

David Kelley, founder of IDEO and currently at the Stanford Design School (called d.school) reflects in this 4-minute video on the shift in the need for empathy for coming up with the big ideas.

 

Matthew Breazeale
Lower School Head
Trinity Academy

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