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I don't think you can count Liberal arts as "impractical" subjects. They may not be "job oriented" but I believe having a foundation in the liberal arts does allow for perhaps a broader education than focusing on a very narrow (albeit deep) technical field from a young age. Maybe some people are better suited to be generalists as opposed to specialists? I don't think restricting a Liberal Arts education for "those who can pay" is a good idea.

In Japan, some companies (especially in banking) hire people to work as generalists. They tend to rotate through a variety of roles as their career progresses. I don't think it is the most efficient allocation of resources, but it does make for employees who have a wider view of the business, and more importantly a network and contacts across a variety of fields.

Like most people commenting here, I have a very specialized technical education (Comp Sci major), but I actually wonder if my education could have been a little broader. I learnt most of what I know at work anyway!!

Perhaps you aren't suggesting exactly this, but I don't understand the commonly-held view that those in technical majors don't have a 'broad education'. Most people I've known in technical majors have as broad an education as any liberal-arts major I know. I personally feel that even in the absence of breadth requirements (which at my university are non-trivial), most of my classmates would be as well-educated as they are now, simply because they have the ability to read and absorb information.

Students who go to college and get a liberal-arts education often don't retain their major-specific knowledge once they move into the job market and into a role that has nothing to do with what they studied. What they are supposed to retain though, is learning- and critical-thinking skills that make them better at various jobs than someone who did not go to college at all. And that same learning- and critical-thinking ability is something technical majors also develop quite well - hence I don't see a liberal arts education as having a monopoly on developing 'generalists' or really providing any advantage in that regard.

Naturally this is also a problem of efficient allocation. I think there is value in the knowledge produced by every field - however we require different levels of supply for different skills/knowledge - and I would further argue that this variation in demand for skills has always existed throughout human history. Since society is both funding education and creating this demand, it makes sense to me that we meet that demand partly by creating the correct supply of variously-educated citizens.

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