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Psychologist Barry Schwartz Asserts Importance of Liberal Arts Education

In a recent appearance on Huffington Post Live and in his LinkedIn blog, Dorwin Cartwright Professor of Social Theory and Social Action Barry Schwartz discussed the value of the liberal arts and the dangers of over-specialization in higher education.

"Students come to college hell-bent on learning something that will make them employable," he says.  Schwartz believes that higher education should equip students to answer four questions: What is worth knowing?, What is worth doing?, What makes for a good human life?, and What are my responsibilities to other people?

"College is not the only place in which answers to these questions can develop," he says, "but it is an important place. And siloed, specialized training in a discipline—any discipline—will answer none of them."

Schwartz, who most recently authored Practical Wisdom: The Right Way to Do the Right Thing with William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Political Science Kenneth Sharpe, also wrote about the importance teaching students to pay attention for Slate.

"By catering to diminished attention, we are making a colossal and unconscionable mistake," Schwartz says. "The world is a complex and subtle place, and efforts to understand it and improve it must match its complexity and subtlety."

Schwartz's work explores the social and psychological effects of free-market economic institutions on moral, social, and civic concerns. His book The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less, examines the often-paralyzing effects on consumers of a marketplace offering a bewildering array of choices.

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