Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Liberal Education

The readings on the interpretations and importance of liberal arts reminded me of something Dr. Callicott said during the sustainability lecture. He talked about liberal education, calling it obviously liberating. He says, "Education enables you to think freely." This theme of freedom being obtained through liberal education was shared in the assigned readings.

Liberal education can be considered "training in how to discern those essential human values that make us free; training in how to express, in speech and writing, our commitment to those values in order to keep us free." (p.235). A liberal education teaches one to express themselves. By focusing on liberal arts, the magnitude of our personal freedoms can be realized. We are no longer chained by the inability to say what we are thinking, we can express ourselves intelligently.
I've noticed that the idea that students "have to study something that will lead directly to a job…" (p.242) has become more popular. Earlier this year, I had been dealing with a similar dilemma, questioning whether or not I wanted to major in Studio Art. There is a noticeable pressure on students to study something that they can easily get a job with and more and more I began to worry that majoring in Fine Arts would not be the safest financial decision I could make. Eventually, I made the decision to switch majors to Liberal Arts. There were a handful of benefits to studying liberal arts listed in the reading, claiming that "studying the humanities improves your ability to read and write...will give you a familiarity with the language of emotion...[and] will give you a  wealth of analogies." (p.242)

Peter T. Flawn, president of UT at the time, stated during an address to the faculty on Oct. 16, 1984, "that liberal education was the cultivation of the intellect." (p.225) Through fully immersing myself in my liberal education, I gain intellect. I don't lose anything through my decision to have a liberal education, I can only gain knowledge.
Liberal arts is defined as originally being the "distinctive epithet of those 'arts' and 'sciences' that were considered 'worthy of a freeman': opposed to serval or mechanical." (p.236) I found this definition of liberal arts to be entirely different from the offered definition of liberal education, which states that liberal education, in it's "grammatical sense is supposed to servile, and by "servile work" is understood, as our catechisms informs us, bodily labor, mechanical employment, and the like, in which the mind has little or no part…" (p.228-229) 

Liberal arts offers a well-rounded education, that has a variety of benefits. Having this form of education can aid in expressing ourselves. Unlike the popular belief that studying something many people perceive as more "practical" is the better decision, having a liberal education is more beneficial in the long run. Liberal education frees us.

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