Is studying the humanities practical? An interesting perspective from a CEO

So you think literature, writing, history, philosophy, art aren’t “practical subjects”? Think again! Here is what Matthew W. Barrett, CEO of Barclay's Bank had to say about the subject:

“If you can get me a young person who can divine the patterns of imagery in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, it would take me just a half hour to teach that person how to break down a balance sheet.

Teach kids the humanities, and give them a broad liberal education, and I’ll teach them business skills. I hate schools that have been co-opted by business. I’d rather you taught people to think, because the limiting factor in executive development these days is people who can’t do lateral thinking. Instead, they have a vocational skill or a technical skill, and it runs out of gas very, very early. The ones who will end up in the top 20 jobs in the organization worldwide are people who can stand back and examine the context in which business operates and can connect the dots in creative ways and transform the business congruent with some of those directions.”

What I believe Mr. Barrett is suggesting is that in addition to technical skills, the ability to "think outside the box" or what he calls "lateral thinking" are skills that prepare students for the world of work. They can learn new subject matter quickly and efficiently, and understand real life issues – whether it’s economics or dealing with people – extremely well. In addition, they have foresight and tend to be creative. These traits are extremely important in business nowadays.

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