Monday, January 20, 2014

What is the value of a Liberal Arts Education?

I graduated with a B.A. in History Education over twenty years ago. When I finished my degree I had 150 credit hours. My degree required less than 130 credit hours, but I took extra courses because of my educational goals. My courses were quite broad. I had several courses in the humanities, social sciences, and the sciences. One of my favorite courses was a World Literature course. We read many of the great authors of Western Civilization: Homer, Plato, Aristotle, St. Augustine, Dante, Vergil, John Milton, and many others. It was my first introduction to the great authors of Western Civilization and I have reread these works many times since this time. For example, I have been reading Dante's Divine Comedy the last six months. I am truly thankful for this broad educational experience. It gave me the skills of reading, writing, listening, speaking, thinking, and conversation. It laid the foundation that I have been building on for the last twenty or more years.

Today, very few students pursue a liberal arts education. Colleges and universities have become more and more specialized. Students and parents want students to pursue majors that will result in a high-paying salary. Scientism is prevalent in both the academy and society. The view that scientific knowledge is the only valid knowlege or the method of truth. Education has become more technical than humanistic. It is more like training than education. Our society needs students who have been educated in the liberal arts. It will provide the tools they will need to pursue learning all their life.

When I graduated with by B.A. in History Education, it was not the end of education, but the beginning. One cannot become educated in four years of college. It takes a whole life to become educated. A liberal arts education helps the students acquire the arts of learning. The student should be able to learn on their own once they graduate. As Aristotle said, education is not for the youth. College is just an introduction to the learning experience.

The problem with a career oriented learning is that it is just training for a job. Most people will have more than 2-3 careers in their life. Many people will have more job changes in their life. Most people do not end up in careers they majored in. This type education does not prepare the student for using their leisure hours wisely. A liberal arts education, in contrast, prepares the student for all the changes of the market place. It teaches them how to use their time wisely. It helps them to pursue a life of wisdom. I have never regretted pursuing a liberal arts education.

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