Oh Snap!

Robin Hanson enters the comments to Tyler Cowen's post on liberal arts education with gusto:

What does the title of this post have to do with the body? That is, what does traveling and mixing with other cultures have to do with a "liberal arts education"? Do people and elite liberal colleges really believe they are exposing themselves to diversity?

I was all set to defend my decidedly non-liberal arts education, which was neither liberal nor artsy, when I realized I wasn't completely sure that Cowen is indeed defending liberal arts education.

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He seems, at best, to be

He seems, at best, to be defending a small slice of liberal arts education: the semester abroad and meeting foreign students. 

"It is in contrast a common

"It is in contrast a common presumption that learning other languages, for English speakers, is becoming obsolete, if only because so many other people speak English. I would think this raises rather than lowers the return to learning other languages."

Although I am all for polygloty, for fun profit and self-serving statements, I fail to see the logic in his point... A language is valuable when it allows you to communicate with much more people. All else equal, more english speakers means less additional people you are likely to reach with a second language.

You're right.  Is there

You're right.  Is there some benefit of speaking a language few people speak?  Past some trivial and unlikely hypotheticals, I can't think of one.


Even if it's not necessary, you can make points by addressing someone in their native language. It's friendlier. This might give you a considerable advantage in some situations.

Certainly but the more

Certainly but the more widely spoken english is, the less valuable that skill becomes, which still goes against Cowen's statement.