Friday, December 01, 2006

The Value of Liberal Arts

Business Standard asks K V Kamath, CEO & MD, ICICI Bank : Do you lack in any particular quality?

Kamath replies (after a long pause): I am probably too technical a person. By training I am an engineer and also did my MBA but I never had an exposure to liberal arts. I wonder sometime that if I had an exposure to liberal arts, probably I could have been a better person, better leader and achieved a little more than what I have (done).

Early in my career I used to feel that technical education is the best education but after 35 years of working I like to admit that I stand corrected.

Kamath was recently named BS 'Banker of the Year' and is widely credited with taking ICICI to new heights. So I'm not sure what 'more' he would or could have achieved. But I agree with his point on liberal arts. More of us should get that kind of 'broad based' education which does not necessarily lead to anything. At least, not directly.

I for one wish I had majored in English literature. Nope, I opted for Economics, the 'almost-a-science'. That's because switching to Arts after being the school topper type was itself a big thing. And in the end I chickened out of a lit major, accepting the argument that 'literature is something you can always pursue on your own'. In that you can read books on your own.

Unfortunately, you never read those kind of books. Or in that kind of way.

It did seem pointless - at the time - writing 3 foolscap sheets on what the motivations and mental state of fictional characters. What a particular novel, or poet was trying to say about the social conditions prevailing in the 18th or 19th century.

But, it was interesting. It made you think, and look for answers. Hidden meanings which may or may not have originally been there.

I guess I was also lucky in that we had some amazing teachers at Sophia College. Ms Colaco and Mrs Stevens, in particular, stretched our minds far beyond the syllabus. In the second year, they covered several works which were not prescribed. Simply because, without that exposure, we would not truly understand 'modern literature'.

Now I can't say that I have, till date, 'understood' T S Eliot's Wasteland. Or Waiting for Godot. But, I am glad I was exposed to those thoughts and ideas.

Similarly, the one year I spent in America as a senior in high school entailed a course in American literature. It was a requirement for graduation, so I had no choice. But I would have taken it, if I had one. John Steinbeck, Willa Cather and most of all The Great Gatsby. Just some of what I remember...

Also the play Our Town by Thornton Wilder, which is an American classic, but unheard of in our part of the world.

Anyhow, liberal arts is not just literature. It's history, philosophy, sociology, psychology, political science. I find that in India, even Arts has a 'caste system'.

The 'Eco' student will take a combination like Eco-Stats-Pol Science or Eco-Stats-Socio. In many cases, that's what the college offers - you have no choice. The 'soft' subjects are in a separate category and generally the two are not mixed up.

However, at Sophia, they actually forced you to opt for a mix. So if you wanted Eco and Stats you would have to choose one subject from the 'other group' - "English lit, French lit, History or Philosophy'. I think, partly, it was so that those departments.. would not become extinct. But whatever the reason, I am very glad!

Getting back to K V Kamath's statement, sadly, the class profile at bs schools is getting skewed more and more away from Arts. IIMA's class of 2006 had only 3% Arts students. And I bet almost all of them would be Economics graduates.

It's a similar story, practically everywhere.

I know, it's the old 'engineers fare better at CAT' argument. The point is most intelligent young people in India still opt for technical education at the class 12 stage itself. So changing the exam is not the answer.

What we need is liberal arts colleges which set standards of excellence which attract the brightest and the best. One Stephen's, an LSR and a Xavier's here and there is not enough.

National Law School is a case in point. Because it exists, it attracts a breed of students who would otherwise never have considered taking up law!

Lastly, if you plan to enter the media, a good liberal arts education is worth a lot more than a Bachelors in Mass Media. Journalism or film making are not subjects to study in a class. The projects you guys do by cutting and pasting from google are of no value.

Focus is not everything in life. As Prof Robert Allen notes "A liberal arts degree gives students general skills to go on to become lifelong learners... They pick up what they need along the way."

Another article on the subject notes:

The best education for an unpredictable future provides the capacity and the tools to gather, interpret, challenge, and create knowledge; to combine ideas in new ways; and to communicate effectively.

A tall order? Yes. But that's exactly what liberal arts can provide a student. This type of education is called liberal arts, because it liberates the mind. The "liberal" comes from the Latin, liber, meaning free--free from ignorance and intolerance and cultural isolation.

Of course, their definition of liberal arts includes music, art and even the natural sciences (physics, chemistry, biology). What we refer to as "Science" and is again, in India, considered far inferior to Engineering.

The bottomline is:
Grounding in the liberal arts offers a window on history, culture, and human beings, on methods of intellectual inquiry, that transcends any particular subject, problem, moment in time, or job.

Sounds like what I would want from an education!


  1. Anonymous7:36 PM

    Very true and the story of opting for more conventional majors must be quite common to many..
    Anyway, did u hear about FLAME ( the insti being captioned by Prof. Indira Parikh? They offer a course in liberal arts, communication and management. Should be interesting!


  2. We have the discussion in our humanities (HSS) courses often here in IITB. During a discussion in an HSS elective I took this time, the Prof. pointed out that MIT has around 25% of humanities courses all through out while IIT's have only around 10%, roughly 1 per semester. I am not sure about the credibility of that statistic but if it is true then it really says something.

    Infact the issue of the purpose of having HSS courses (non eco) here is so often debated that we had a faculty member from the HSS department to write an article "Why HSS?" in a recent issue of InsIghT; our insti newsletter. (If interested you can find it here on page 6)

  3. Anonymous9:23 PM

    studying liberal arts is a waste of time...says not me but ...Thorstein Veblen in his epic The Theory of the Leisure Class.

    "He defined conspicuous leisure as the waste of time by people to give themselves higher status. As examples, he noted that to be a "gentleman", a man must study such things as philosophy and the fine arts, which have no economic value in themselves."

    so in india any bright young student who wants to earn a decent living for himself wont exactly be looking at arts. i also remember Jerry Rao saying something like this that Mphasis should have more poets. but the main point is can poets code ? :P

  4. Anonymous1:01 AM

    I like the post, but I am sorry that I don't quite agree to it. In India education is not about nurturing the intellect with in. It is about being employed. Education is not about pursuasuion of interest in this country of ours for majority of people, it is ensuring employability at the start of life. It is very easy to say that liberal arts are very nurturing and things but the fact is even 10 years down the line when children now would start getting some sense would realize, that all the upcity flats belong to most of the MBAs, Engineer not to their teachers. They will drift towards the same technical eductaion. Because nurturing of intellect can be done at any stage of life. Even the maslows hierarchy puts the physiological & security needs well below the other needs.

    As a matter of fact even in the technological side of study people are prefering to better employability (Read MBA) than Research in the country (Read M. Techs) because the scenario of Masters in the technology field in India is grim and doesn't provides enough value add in employability in general.

  5. I could not agree more. Why is our education system a zero-sum game? Either you take the arts or sciences. There is hardly any scope for mixing-and-matching in most of our universities. In the US, you can major in physics and minor in something else, even earn a dual degree in English literature and, say, statistics. Some people look upon the Arts as lazy ways to spend time, meant only for upper class people. But, have they really thought about what it is that makes a 'civilized, cultured' populace? If taken with due intellectual rigour, the humanities train you to think about the human psyche, about social problems, their whys and hows. Leaders have to understand people as much or even more than they understand machines. And, here is a great post by
    Kathy Sierra
    , one of the co-creators of the Sun Certification exams. Imagine, if they are complaining about the state of American higher education, I don't know what we should say about ours:).
    My Hindi teacher once said,
    "Sahitya, sangeet, kala viheena,
    ...." (it meant something like this, a person without literature, music and art is like an animal without a tail. A tail may not be important to humans but it is to animals:) ).

  6. Anonymous8:45 AM

    Dear Rashmi

    Mr Kamat did say what I always thought about our education system, that it lacks the ability to provide well rounded education with an ability and capacity to inovate.

    Well i stated blogging recently and wrote about splitting mumbai university into 2 pieces (don't be alarmed). Please read through.


  7. Anonymous12:00 PM

    sorry forgot the link


  8. Since liberal arts are not encouraged here, Indians only provide services and make commodities. The products which are really difficult to replicate (and where the real money is) are sold by others. Many Westerners wonder why Indians will be happy to spend a few days coding software for just $200 and then many copies of the same software can be sold for a much higher amount. They conclude it is "cultural" issue.

  9. Anonymous11:07 AM

    hey rashmi... a very nice post...
    am an engineer & MBA who somehow managed to get into media( into advertising), i wish i had not succumbed to parental and peer pressure and spent more time on Arts rather than the sciences...I miss the exposure to literature...

    Now there is less time...and so much more to catch up...and half a lifetime gone:-)

    Your blog is as always so refreshing! cheers

  10. It all depends on what stage of evolution a country is in. A developing country sure does require a lot of Engineers. The US did graduate a lot of Engineers during the 50's and 60's when their economy needed it. The current generation in the US can therefore afford to study liberal arts leaving what little technology work remains to be done in their country to Indians & Chinese immigrants.
    I firmly believe in a strong liberal arts education and I am sure as the country moves from a developing country to a developed one, more and more of them would opt for liberal arts rather than science and engineering.

  11. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  12. Anonymous8:55 AM

    减速机 齿轮减速机 SEW减速机 摆线针轮减速机 蜗轮蜗杆减速机 interlining
    明星代言 明星经纪公司
    制动单元 铝壳电阻
    modern abstract art sofa manufacturer
    净水器 开水器 净水机 净水 软水机 软水 直饮机 家用净水 家用净水器 家用净水机 中央净水 中央净水器 水家装 水家电 水卫士 混合机
    过滤机 DHL快递 俄罗斯签证 回转支承 Laser marking
    保险箱 法兰 法兰标准
    polycarbonate sheet 回流焊 波峰焊
    压球机 注册上海公司 儿童摄影
    牛皮癣 皮肤病 制氮机
    食堂售餐机 校园一卡通
    学校一卡通 ic卡售饭机
    食堂售饭机 深圳一卡通
    广东售饭机 机电设备安装
    北京发票 代开发票
    餐饮发票 住宿发票
    网络电话 免费网络电话
    假发 补发
    织发 植发
    压滤机 板框压滤机
    蒸馏水机 纯蒸气发生器
    上海搬家公司 上海搬场公司
    大众搬家 大众搬场
    张家界旅游 香港旅游
    深圳旅行社 打包机
    收缩机 对讲机 电源模块
    售饭机 水控机 水控器
    萎缩性胃炎 neoprene laptop bags
    SEO优化 计量泵
    胃炎 胃病
    冷水机 冰水机
    北京特价机票 北京打折计票 北京国际机票
    北京机票预定 北京飞机票
    北京订机票 北京机票查询 饮料机械
    银杏 水培花卉 企业宣传片 空分设备
    化工泵 离心机
    电话交换机 程控交换机 集团电话 集装袋
    混合机 混合机
    混合机捏合机 捏合机
    捏合机导热油炉 导热油炉
    导热油炉 反应釜 反应釜
    反应釜 spherical roller bearing
    搬运车 搬运车 电动搬运车 油桶搬运车 堆高车 电动堆高车 半电动堆高车 堆垛车
    高空作业平台车 电动叉车 平衡重叉车 前移叉车 电瓶叉车
    韩国饰品批发 模块电源
    X架 超薄灯箱> 易拉宝 展柜制作
    代理服务器 游戏加速器 网络加速器
    网通加速器 电信加速器 电信网通转换器
    电信网通加速器 网通电信互转
    网通电信互通 网络游戏加速器
    美国VPN代理 美国独享VPN 美国独享IP
    pvc ceiling panel Spherical roller bearings
    安全鞋 劳保鞋 防砸鞋 电绝缘鞋 上海安全鞋 上海劳保鞋 江苏劳保鞋
    服装软件 服装管理软件 进销存软件
    进销存管理软件 服装管理系统 服装进销存软件
    进销存系统 进销存管理系统 免费进销存软件
    吉林中医 东北特产
    阳痿 阴茎短小 阴茎增大
    早泄 前列腺炎 阴茎增粗 阴茎延长
    国际机票 上海国际机票
    国际特价机票 国际打折机票
    砂磨机 砂磨机
    砂磨机 卧式砂磨机
    卧式砂磨机 卧式砂磨机
    三辊研磨机 三辊研磨机
    三辊研磨机 混合机 混合机
    混合机 锥形混合机 锥形混合机 锥形混合机 行星动力混合机 行星动力混合机 行星动力混合机 无重力混合机 无重力混合机 无重力混合机
    干粉砂浆设备 干粉砂浆设备
    干粉砂浆设备 捏合机 捏合机 捏合机 导热油炉 导热油炉 导热油炉 反应釜 反应釜 反应釜 搪玻璃反应釜 搪玻璃反应釜 搪玻璃反应釜
    乳化机 涂料设备 干混砂浆设备 无重力混合机 胶体磨 涂料成套设备 双螺旋混合机
    北京婚庆 北京婚庆公司
    办证 呼吸机 制氧机
    亚都 亚都加湿器 亚都净化器
    饰品批发 小饰品批发 韩国饰品 韩国饰品批发 premature ejaculation penis enlargement
    安利产品 马来西亚留学
    网站优化 网站推广
    论文代写 代写论文
    拖链 防护罩 排屑机 塑料拖链 钢铝拖链
    深圳装饰 深圳装饰公司 深圳装修公司
    特价机票 打折机票 国际机票
    新风换气机 换气机 立式新风换气机 风机箱 新风系统 能量回收机
    搅拌机 混合机 乳化机
    毛刷 毛刷辊 工业毛刷 刷子 钢丝刷
    涂层测厚仪 硬度计
    兆欧表 激光测距仪
    测振仪 转速表
    温湿度计 风速仪
    噪音计 红外测温仪
    硬度计 万用表
    美容院 美容加盟
    澳洲留学 澳大利亚留学
    酒店预定 北京酒店预定 北京酒店
    nail equipment nail products nail product nail uv lamp nail uv lamp nail uv lamps uv nail lamp nail brush
    nail file nail tool nail tip nail gel curing uv lamps lights
    万用表 风速仪
    红外测温仪 噪音计
    苗木价格 苗木信息 标牌制作 深圳标牌 北京儿童摄影 防静电鞋 淘宝刷信誉
    威海凤凰湖 威海海景房 大庆密封件
    打标机 淘宝刷信誉 TESOL/TEFL国际英语教师证书 英语教师进修及培训 北京快递公司 北京国际快递

  13. Anonymous11:09 AM

    导热油炉吴桥县导热油炉锅有限责任公司是全国最大的生产导热油炉生产基地之一,公司主要生产各种导热油炉锅,熔盐炉, 转盘轴承,管式加热炉,蒸汽发生器,一二类压力容器.徐州回转支承 公司提供转盘轴承 --slewing ring slewing bearing slewing bearings服务. automation-industrial-industrial automation-slewing bearingslewing bearings

  14. Anonymous3:27 PM

    Youth is not wow gold a time of life;world of warcraft gold it is a state of mind; cheap wow gold it is not a Maple Story Accounts matter of rosy cheeks, red lips and supple knees;mesos it is a matter of the will, a quality of the imagination,wow gold kaufen a vigor of the emotions; it is the freshness wow geld of the deep springs of life.maple story mesos Youth means a tempera-mental predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the love of ease. This often exists in a man of 60 more than a boy of gold farmen Nobody grows old merely by a number of years.maple story money We grow old by deserting our mesos Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul. Worry, fear, self-distrust bows the heart and turns the spring back to dust. Whether 60 or 16, there is in every human being’wow powerleveling s heart the lure of wonder, the unfailing childlike appetite of what’s maple story money next and the joy of the game of living.powerlevel In the center of your heart and my heart there is a wireless station: so long as it receives messages maplestory powerleveling of beauty, hope, cheer,world of warcraft power leveling courage and power from men and from the Infinite, so long are you young. When the aerials are down, and your spirit is covered with snows of cynicism and the ice of pessimism, then you are grown old, even at 20, but as long as your aerials are up, to catch waves of optimism, there is hope you may die young at 80!

  15. Anonymous9:00 AM

    ^^ nice blog!! ^@^

    徵信, 徵信網, 徵信社, 徵信社, 徵信社, 徵信社, 感情挽回, 婚姻挽回, 挽回婚姻, 挽回感情, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信, 捉姦, 徵信公司, 通姦, 通姦罪, 抓姦, 抓猴, 捉猴, 捉姦, 監聽, 調查跟蹤, 反跟蹤, 外遇問題, 徵信, 捉姦, 女人徵信, 女子徵信, 外遇問題, 女子徵信, 徵信社, 外遇, 徵信公司, 徵信網, 外遇蒐證, 抓姦, 抓猴, 捉猴, 調查跟蹤, 反跟蹤, 感情挽回, 挽回感情, 婚姻挽回, 挽回婚姻, 外遇沖開, 抓姦, 女子徵信, 外遇蒐證, 外遇, 通姦, 通姦罪, 贍養費, 徵信, 徵信社, 抓姦, 徵信, 徵信公司, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信公司, 徵信社, 徵信公司, 女人徵信, 外遇

    徵信, 徵信網, 徵信社, 徵信網, 外遇, 徵信, 徵信社, 抓姦, 徵信, 女人徵信, 徵信社, 女人徵信社, 外遇, 抓姦, 徵信公司, 徵信社, 徵信社, 徵信社, 徵信社, 徵信社, 女人徵信社, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 女子徵信社, 女子徵信社, 女子徵信社, 女子徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信,

    徵信, 徵信社,徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 外遇, 抓姦, 離婚, 外遇,離婚,

    徵信, 外遇, 離婚, 徵信社, 徵信, 外遇, 抓姦, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 外遇, 徵信社, 徵信, 外遇, 抓姦, 徵信社, 征信, 征信, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 征信, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信社, 徵信社, 徵信, 外遇, 抓姦, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信,

  16. Anonymous7:48 AM

    看房子,買房子,建商自售,自售,台北新成屋,台北豪宅,新成屋,豪宅,美髮儀器,美髮,儀器,髮型,EMBA,MBA,學位,EMBA,專業認證,認證課程,博士學位,DBA,PHD,在職進修,碩士學位,推廣教育,DBA,進修課程,碩士學位,網路廣告,關鍵字廣告,關鍵字,課程介紹,學分班,文憑,牛樟芝,段木,牛樟菇,日式料理, 台北居酒屋,日本料理,結婚,婚宴場地,推車飲茶,港式點心,尾牙春酒,台北住宿,國內訂房,台北HOTEL,台北婚宴,飯店優惠,台北結婚,場地,住宿,訂房,HOTEL,飯店,造型系列,學位,SEO,婚宴,捷運,學區,美髮,儀器,髮型,看房子,買房子,建商自售,自售,房子,捷運,學區,台北新成屋,台北豪宅,新成屋,豪宅,學位,碩士學位,進修,在職進修, 課程,教育,學位,證照,mba,文憑,學分班,台北住宿,國內訂房,台北HOTEL,台北婚宴,飯店優惠,住宿,訂房,HOTEL,飯店,婚宴,台北住宿,國內訂房,台北HOTEL,台北婚宴,飯店優惠,住宿,訂房,HOTEL,飯店,婚宴,台北住宿,國內訂房,台北HOTEL,台北婚宴,飯店優惠,住宿,訂房,HOTEL,飯店,婚宴,結婚,婚宴場地,推車飲茶,港式點心,尾牙春酒,台北結婚,場地,結婚,場地,推車飲茶,港式點心,尾牙春酒,台北結婚,婚宴場地,結婚,婚宴場地,推車飲茶,港式點心,尾牙春酒,台北結婚,場地,居酒屋,燒烤,美髮,儀器,髮型,美髮,儀器,髮型,美髮,儀器,髮型,美髮,儀器,髮型,小套房,小套房,進修,在職進修,留學,證照,MBA,EMBA,留學,MBA,EMBA,留學,進修,在職進修,牛樟芝,段木,牛樟菇,關鍵字排名,網路行銷,关键词排名,网络营销,網路行銷,關鍵字排名,关键词排名,网络营销,PMP,在職專班,研究所在職專班,碩士在職專班,PMP,證照,在職專班,研究所在職專班,碩士在職專班,SEO,廣告,關鍵字,關鍵字排名,網路行銷,網頁設計,網站設計,網站排名,搜尋引擎,網路廣告,SEO,廣告,關鍵字,關鍵字排名,網路行銷,網頁設計,網站設計,網站排名,搜尋引擎,網路廣告,SEO,廣告,關鍵字,關鍵字排名,網路行銷,網頁設計,網站設計,網站排名,搜尋引擎,網路廣告,SEO,廣告,關鍵字,關鍵字排名,網路行銷,網頁設計,網站設計,網站排名,搜尋引擎,網路廣告,EMBA,MBA,PMP



Disqus for Youth Curry - Insight on Indian Youth