The following opinion piece ran in The Hechinger Report on 30 April 2019.
Can the liberal arts navigate poverty, diminished opportunity and robots?
by Jonathan D. GreenThe poor and less-educated are the portion of our population most threatened by automation and artificial intelligence, as more and more of their job prospects are disappearing.
When a recent study, “Robots Need Not Apply: How Job-Seeking Students Can Crush Their Fear of a Technology Takeover,” revealed an unmet need of employees with “soft skills,” it was more evidence that liberal-arts graduates are essential in the workforce — and especially important for those seeking to break out of a cycle of poverty and diminishing opportunities.
A college degree alone is not a guaranteed defense against being replaced by technology. Employers cited listening, attention to detail, and communication as the most desired skills they sought in new employees, in the study conducted by the educational consulting firm Cengage and the research firm Morning Consult.
Colleges and universities provide gateways to the middle class for many deserving students. At Susquehanna University, where I am president, approximately 40 percent of students are first-generation college attendees, and 31 percent of our first-year class are Pell Grant recipients. We foster a skill-set that will protect our graduates from the impending obsolescence of so many of the jobs to which they would be limited without a university education.