Earlier this month, I spent a week in a villa overlooking the northern Pacific coast of the Central American Republic of Costa Rica where the tropical-forested mountain range of the Nicoya Peninsula begins its 3,000’ assent above pastoral cattle and horse ranches.
I was tagging along with a friend, her daughter, and two of her daughter's friends, all three of whom are college aged. Their majors are architecture, psychology and International Relations.
In part, when I wasn’t mesmerized by the spectacular ocean view, I took respite reading a newly published survey of employers entitled “It Takes More Than A Major.”
More than 9-in-10 agreed that “a candidate’s demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than their undergraduate major.”
Eight-in-ten employers agreed that “regardless of their major, every college student should acquire a broad knowledge in the liberal arts and sciences.”
Tellingly, a similar ratio felt it was important that “those they hire demonstrate ethical judgment and integrity; intercultural skills; and a capacity for new learning,” things I also wish were minimum requirements to run for elected office.
When it comes to “ethical judgment and integrity,” 76% of employers believed this is “very important.”
By more than 2-to-1, employers believe colleges should place more emphasis on the “ability to connect choices and actions to ethical decisions” as an outcome, a greater ratio than those who want more emphasis on science and technology.
More than 8-in-10 say that more emphasis should be placed by colleges on critical thinking and analytical reasoning skills and the ability to analyze and solve complex problems.
Double the ratio of employers want more emphases on critical thinking and reasoning than those seeking more emphasis on the ability to innovate and be creative.
Is it possible that employers see the high correlation of critical thinking to innovation? Apparently so. Oh, and 83% believe it is very important or fairly important for students to learn the ability to research problems and analyze solutions.
By 8.5-to-1, employers believe the concept of a liberal education is “very important” compared to “only somewhat important.” Tellingly, three in four would unequivocally recommend the concept of liberal education to their own child.
Coincidentally, Dr. Dick Brodhead who also lives and works in my adopted hometown of Durham, North Carolina, recently co-chaired a report to guide public policy in this regard entitled “The Heart of the Matter.”
Those who know Dick as a friend, as I do, were not at all surprised at his quick wit on last Thursday’s edition of The Colbert Report. When finished with his gig as president of Duke University, in the tradition of Steven Wright, Dick would be a great stand-up comedian.