On the virtues of a balanced education

June 17, 2010: 8:18 AM ET

I got a lot of terrific responses to my column on reading Tuesday. The most interesting was from my old pal Phil Leigh, who runs a site called Inside Digital Media. If your business is on his topic or if you like to buy those kinds of stocks, you should pay Phil gobs of money and subscribe to his services. He's one smart cookie, a former stock broker and research analyst who calls it like he sees it.

He's so interesting, in fact, that I'm going to turn most of the rest of this column over to him, along with my commentary.

First, I agree that storytelling will never die. Even "going to the movies" is all about wanting to be told a story. However, the Internet's ability to mix media may change the way we tell stories. While it may not obsolete text any more than movies did, it is likely to provide new ways of telling stories. When possible, I try to include a story in my research papers.

No arguments there, Phil.

Second, you may be interested in the article from today's New York Times about Bloomsday and the value of a liberal arts education. I can see great value in the writer's points. But I also believe that too many with a liberal-arts-only education are just as likely to devalue the merits of a technical education. One reason you are successful, is because I assume you are an exception -- meaning that as a writer you welcome the opportunity to learn of new technologies as well as new ideas generally.

Wonderful article indeed. The fascinating bit to me was how these newly well-rounded men suddenly wanted to have a balanced life -- in other words, to enjoy the fruits of their educations -- and no longer were as willing to salute and do Ma Bell's bidding. As I told the flattering Phil by email, I took biology, physics, chemistry, and math too and in fact consider them part of a balanced education.

I think the problem is with students who treat college as vocational training. That's not a knock on learning skills, by the way. It's just that the skill one needs to learn in college is thinking, and the liberal arts are the foundation for that, pure and simple.

Third, just as you conclude your Mom would have eventually come to love e-readers, I know a middle aged lady who as a voracious reader told me she would never use a Kindle. However, she bought one for her husband on Christmas only to learn he never uses it. Now she uses it often and loves it.

Ain't progress grand?

Fourth, while I applaud building libraries I am disappointed that they are primarily for girls. Over the past 50 years there has been far too much focus on girls to the exclusion of boys. Now boys lag in school and in undeveloped countries are often more victimized than girls as evidenced by this article from the New York Times.

I'm no expert, Phil, but I'd say this one article isn't conclusive proof and that it's still a lot tougher to be a little girl than a little boy in many places around the globe. But we can agree to disagree on that. Thanks for writing!

As promised ...

Here's the list of organizations you sent to me that also are worthy of donations if you'd like to encourage reading.

Book Trust: http://booktrust.org/

First Book: http://www.firstbook.org/

Reading Partners:  http://www.readingpartners.org/

DonorsChoose.org, specifically keyword "literacy"

African Library Project: http://www.africanlibraryproject.org/

Central Asia Institute: http://www.ikat.org/

I'm happy to publish more suggestions.

Finally, you can't make this stuff up ...

From Tuesday's New York Times, on only the latest calamity in the Gulf:

The company has proven in recent days that it can capture roughly 15,000 barrels of oil a day, though the operation was interrupted briefly on Tuesday by a small fire after the Discoverer Enterprise drilling ship was apparently struck by lightning.

Sigh.

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About This Author
Adam Lashinsky
Adam Lashinsky
Senior Editor at Large, Fortune

Adam Lashinsky is a San Francisco-based editor-at-large for FORTUNE, covering Wall Street and Silicon Valley. Lashinsky joined FORTUNE in 2001, after two years as a contributing columnist. Prior to joining FORTUNE, Lashinsky covered Silicon Valley for TheStreet.com and The San Jose Mercury News. A Chicago native, Lashinsky holds a B.A. in history and political science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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