The New Liberal Arts Sanford Ungar: Exploring Bias and Persuasion

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Updated: Sep 02, 2023
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In ‘The New Liberal Arts,’ author Sanford J. Ungar argues that there are common misperceptions/misconceptions about pursuing liberal arts degrees. Ungar notes that from his vantage point as a liberal arts college president, it is commonplace for policymakers, news outlets, and budget-conscious families to disregard liberal arts degrees in favor of specialized vocational training or STEM degrees. In addressing the question of the latter, Ungar suggests that liberal arts degrees offer a more rounded and diverse education.


Addressing Misconceptions

Using his own experiences as an educator, Ungar illustrates the idea that liberal arts degrees could be the solution corporate America needs.

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He outlines six misperceptions and labels the 7th as a misconception of how people in our country view a liberal arts degree and how alternatively we should view them.

Misperception No. 1 suggests families view a liberal arts degree as a throwaway compared to career-specific education. Many families will steer towards vocational training as it can be profitable in the short term. Ungar argues it has become an advantage to gain a well-rounded education so you can adapt in life rather than hope your career will never become obsolete.

In Misperception No. 2, Ungar implies people think that finding well-paid jobs is becoming harder with irrelevant majors such as philosophy or French. Ungar disagrees when he points out that a 2009 survey of American Colleges and Universities found that more than three-quarters of our nation’s employers recommended that college students should pursue a liberal education.

Subtly revisiting the topic in No. 1, Misperception No. 3 states that liberal arts are irrelevant to low-income students, and the students, in turn, must focus on something more practical and marketable, suggesting that the rich make decisions while the lower classes carry out their ideas. Ungar’s experience highlights that students who are new to certain ideas and approaches are often the most original and inventive and have the skills to apply their ideas.

Misperception No. 4 briefly goes over the pitfalls of only studying the Arts. The notion is that people say STEM fields are where the action is. Though Ungar counters, the liberal arts contain the widest possible range of disciplines in the natural sciences, the humanities, and the social sciences.

Misperception No. 5 states that it is the liberal Democrats who got the country in trouble over the recent years. Ungar then mocks the Republican-spouted slur by writing, “But it may be only liberal education that can help lead the way back to comity and respectful conversations about issues before us” (340).

Misperception No. 6 characterizes liberal arts as old-fashioned in comparison to other countries with more practical orientations. Ungar refutes this by explaining in recent years, China has been inquisitive about the liberal arts. This suggests they may be looking for an alternative educational system.

Misconception No. 7 covers the rising costs of education and questions liberal arts efficiency and production. Author Sanford J. Ungar then blames the lack of help from government funding but also suggests small liberal arts colleges can be a cheaper alternative in the rough times ahead (341,342).

Reflection on Ethical Responsibility

The “The New Liberal Arts” in its entirety made me feel like it’s an advertisement in disguise. The negative connotations about larger universities Ungar use point the audience of the article to colleges his size. The not-so-subtle way that he insinuates Republicans blame Democrats for the recent downfall in our country’s economy is a call to action for his Democrat demographic. He further expands his audience by attacking specialized training over his liberal arts programs, potentially converting students who have not yet decided on an educational pathway. Furthermore, he closes his article with how colleges like his will be a cheaper and more sensible alternative to other costly educational institutions.

Despite the conflict of interest, I do agree with some of his points. A broader education can be more adaptive to career survival and, in my personal experience, survival itself. My success in poker and the training I spent thousands on have taught me how to read people, how to discern their situation, and how to hide my weaknesses. I’ve used those skills to survive being robbed at gunpoint.
Walking back to my car at Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Tampa late at night, a man pulled a gun out and told me to empty my pockets. Looking at this guy about 5 feet away, I could tell he was about 45-50 years old. There are certain bio-markers you look for to determine age by looking at a face. His clothes seemed like a normal white shirt and blue jeans. Looking at his shoes, I could see that they were in a destroyed state, indicating his wealth and experience as a robber. A more successful and knowledgeable robber would have tennis shoes or boots for running through rough terrain. He spoke clearly and had a firm form holding his weapon, clueing me in he wasn’t intoxicated. I suspected he couldn’t afford ammo for the revolver he was using, so I looked for any signs. Deep shadows down the cylinders of the revolver suggested the cylinders were empty. I was still cautious as he may have one next in the chamber. I started to talk to the robber, “You kill me, you’ll get a murder conviction. There are cameras surrounding this casino and three police stations surrounding the area. You can’t outrun anyone in those shoes. I know you’re desperate, and I have $20 in my wallet after losing much more inside. Put the gun away, go wherever home is, and come up with a better plan than robbery, and I won’t report you.” He didn’t say anything else. Exasperated, he started walking away at a fast pace. Without this broader knowledge I sought to learn, the results of the situation could have been much worse for both me and him. Specialized training without a broader understanding of the world sounds too dystopian to me, even though we all start somewhere.


Ungar’s writing style was ineffective for me. However, I could see its influence and pointed nature. The labeling of misperceptions to misconception could be confusing to the audience, and I believe a better choice could have been made (perhaps by calling them assumptions instead). Ungar’s points should have been more concise to hold greater influence and credibility.
Overall, I believe this to be marketing material for his college. While Ungar does make good points, those points lose credibility in his biased views. I would not recommend this article as it contains little relevant information for the audience but rather for Ungar’s own gain.

Works Cited

  1. Graff, Gerald, et al. ‘They Say / I Say’: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing. 4th ed., W.W. Norton & Company, 2018.
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The New Liberal Arts Sanford Ungar: Exploring Bias and Persuasion. (2023, Sep 02). Retrieved from