Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Why Choose the Liberal Arts?

Why Choose the Liberal Arts?
By Mark William Roche, University of Notre Dame, 2010, 198 pp., ISBN 978-0-268-04032-1, $20.00 (paper).

This is the author's version of a work that was submitted/accepted for publication in the following source:

Shaffett, John E. Catholic Library World, 81(4): 308(Jun 2011).

What is a liberal arts education good for? Students attending college and their parents are more concerned about what degree will help them make lots of money, rather than the degree that will help them live well. Can a liberal arts education be defended in a time of economic decline? Mark William Roche thinks it can and that is what he does in his new book, Why Choose the Liberal Arts? He defends three ideas on the enduring value of a liberal arts education. First, a liberal arts education has intrinsic value; it is an end in itself. This point contrasts with the idea of education as a means to another end. Second, like John Henry Newman, Roche believes that a liberal arts education will cultivate the intellectual virtues that will make it possible for the student to participate in life-long learning. Third, unlike some of the modern proponents of education who thinks that the cultivating of moral virtues are not part of the aims of education, Roche argues that a liberal arts education should cultivate the moral virtues and help the student to develop “a sense of vocation, the connection to a higher purpose or calling” (10-11).

            Roche includes personal reflections to illustrate and personalize his points on the enduring value of a liberal arts education. He shows how businesses and organizations want employees who know how to read, write, speak and think clearly. Roche asserts that a liberal arts education is not only its own reward, and “integral to the life of the mind;” but it is also applicable in a practical way (82). The majority of workers will change jobs or careers multiple times in their life. A liberal arts education is better preparation for this type of future than vocational education. Why Choose the Liberal Arts is a needed book and highly recommended.

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