What is Liberal Arts Education?
Why Study the Liberal Arts?
Most college students, and parents of college students, believe the goal of college is to secure a practical education that will lead to a first real job.
When they first arrive at college, many students are surprised at the general education classes they must take in order to graduate. Students sometimes ask, "Why do we have to study chemistry (or history, or foreign languages) when we will never use this stuff again?"
But isn't getting a college education about more than just survival?. We urge students to ask themselves two questions:
Education in the arts, sciences and humanities develops in students three types of skills that employers prize above all others. These are reasoning skills, communication skills, and social skills.
A liberal arts education teaches you how to think, which is to say, it will teach you how to live.
You will develop strength of mind and an ordered intellect. You will be able to think for yourself. The world becomes understandable.
A liberal arts education is valuable because it teaches students to ask questions that matter, to weigh conflicting evidence, to appreciate the complexity of situations, and to develop logical, convincing arguments for solutions. You will take with you the knowledge of organized solutions, of hierarchical procedures, of rational sequences that can be applied to any endeavor. A wide ranging education, covering everything from biology to history to human nature, will provide many tools for understanding.
The student develops the ability to analyze, or break ideas into parts, and to synthesize, or bring parts together to make a whole. These are considered the most difficult intellectual skills, and the person who has developed them gains a wider perspective and greater mental agility. Technology drives change at such a pace that in less than five years, most facts college students learn are out of date. Business recruiters are looking for graduates who are inventive and flexible enough to learn new skills.
The habits of attention and concentration, the ability to follow arguments, and the ability to distinguish the important from the trivial and to grasp new concepts, all these become easier.
Studying different subjects trains the mind to work in different ways: analytically, synthetically, creatively, logically, metaphorically.
A liberal arts education teaches you how to learn.
By teaching you how to learn and how to organize ideas, the liberal arts institution will enable you to understand new material more easily, to learn faster and more thoroughly and permanently.
The more you learn, the more you can learn.
Old knowledge clarifies new knowledge.
General knowledge enhances creativity.
A liberal arts education allows you to see things whole.
A general education supplies a context for all knowledge and especially for one's chosen area.
A well-rounded education, a study of the whole range of knowledge, produces an intellectual panorama, a map of the universe, which shows the relative disposition of things and ideas (…) provides an understanding of hierarchies and relationships. Most jobs, most endeavors, really require more knowledge than that of one field.
Employers search for graduates who are able to communicate ideas clearly and coherently, who can be articulate and persuasive in proposing new ideas. Communication skills divide those who move up the career ladder from those who stagnate. Although many people can master the technical skills of a job, very few have the communication skills needed to present a truly professional image in speech and writing.
Employers want to hire people who have strong social skills, people who cooperate well with others. People with strong social skills (…) can inspire a team with enthusiasm. They make better leaders, and better citizens.
Compiled by Tri Viet International University from "Why study the Liberal Arts"? by Susan M. Di Biase, Phi Beta Kappa, University of North Carolina – Greensboro; "The Purpose of a Liberal Arts Education by Robert Harris (March 14, 1991)"