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Liberal Arts Education and a Changing Time

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Liberal Arts education and a changing time Today, an education is deemed necessary to get a good paying job, at least that is what our parents told us growing up. Although, our parents failed to mention the most important part, an education is more than going to school to get a job that pays well, it is where you find your place in the world, where some find lifelong friends, and many find what they love in life. With all of the new technological advancements going on around us, it seems that with all that change, education is also evolving. Back when only high class men attended universities, the middle class moderate never had a chance to get a higher education. Things like, “How quickly do i want to achieve my degree?” And “What do i want to major in?” Were not topics of conversation, but that is not the case in this modern world. Now a days, there are hundreds of Vocational “training” schools popping up what seems to be everyday. They are career specific schools, with little or no emphasis on the humanities. They are broadcast frequently on our television commercials with catchy slogans and songs, “Get your degree online in less than 10 months” and “Don’t wait! call now for a quick, easy and affordable college degree!” Are all of these readily accessible “training schools” really helping our society flourish? Or are they having a negative effect on the future of our country?
But I must debate that college is a place of development, and should not be a school of fast paced training programs. Unlike the fast track schools, a traditional form of study that dates back to the twentieth century, a liberal arts education, which focuses on the development of an individual, that is willing to grow in all aspects of life, from stretching their minds to sharpening their intellects. This is where students come to evolve, to learn, to ignite their passions. As author Clarence Thurbur details, “The purpose of the liberal arts has long been recognized as the development of the whole individual for leadership in the world, rather than producing narrowly trained specialists” (Thurbur, 1934). This further supports the argument that, with our ever so changing society our country needs to put more focus on the importance of being properly educated, opposed to quickly educated. Education should focus on all aspects of the arts, because life is a melting pot of people, religions, ideas, beliefs and cultures. Without the development of critical thinking, ethical values, and morals, which are all important parts of a liberal arts education, it is feared that our society as a whole will not survive. The views of John henry Newman on Education are very traditional, he believes in a university that is similar to a training ground for society where men can go that have an interest in raising their intellect. However his ideas on education are different than that of a modern liberal arts education. In short; he is defending the religious influence in education, although it does not play a part in the curriculum in our modern universities today. At the same time, Newman believes that it is important to have many different subjects of study at a university. Even though not all students can pursue them all, it is beneficial for them to be around the diversity of knowledge, to converse with others, and grow as a human being. To clarify, Newman states “It is the education which gives a man a clear conscious view of his own opinions and judgements, a truth in developing them, an eloquence in expressing them, and a force in urging them” (Newman 53). He is emphasizing that, education encourages the maturation of an individual in all aspects of life, allowing room for personal growth. As well as giving students the means to understand, evaluate, and express themselves effectively. This is similar to the teaching and learning strategies of modern day universities. As students we can acquire radically different outlooks on the world, radically different perspectives from those we initially held. That being said, my views are somewhat similar to that of John henry Newman, perhaps less traditional, nonetheless I agree that the conflation of knowledge at a university is necessary. Due to the fact that everything is interrelated; bringing the subjects together will contract a student's mind further than simply studying one subject alone, much like the training schools we have today. In the wise words of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, German writer, and poet “People cannot learn what they do not love” (Spayde, 69). Simply put, yet genuinely meaningful, it is true we all find time to do things that we love. Taking time to do things that make our soul happy. That being said if we do not love something wholeheartedly, we will never find joy in doing it. The journey of finding our eros in life is not an easy one, a liberal arts education can pave the way to discovery. “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world”-C.S. Lewis. To some the idea of love is just a silly fairy tale, where everyone lives happily ever after. But the eros that I am referring to, is a different kind of love, much like the passion that some educators feel for teaching. Their drive to encourage the development of skills and to provide guidance and instil morals in our youth, is a love of creating a better future. With that being said a liberal arts education allows for the best teacher, student relationships as well as allowing for exploration of many different subjects. On the other hand an education that focuses mainly on enabling a skill or training, does not give students a wide range of knowledge, as well as downplays the importance of the interpersonal relationship between a student and a teacher.
A liberal arts college is a combination of the arts, humanities, sciences, and social sciences. One of the main goals of a liberal arts education is that students learn both; values and morals, to prepare them for life after college. The moral philosophy aspect of education, came mainly from the christianity influence during the late 18th and 19th centuries. But over the years has drifted from the main focus of a higher education and been replaced with other extra curricular activities that deemed more fit at a university. Fred W. Beuttler writes “What ended the reign of the moral philosophy capstone was the rise of specialized knowledge represented by the disciplines, primarily in the social sciences, such as history, economics, sociology, and psychology” (Beuttler 86). With all of these specialties, there is less of a focus on the study of morality. As education molds to a changing time, so do its disciplines and some fear that it is not in the best interest of our future. Morals are strongly based on one's values, which we should develop from simply living, but the world we live in today is infected with Immorality. Things like drugs, crime, greed, and many more horrible things have become woven into the very fabric of our everyday lives. Amid all of the promiscuity of the 21st century, how is our youth expected to live a somewhat moral lifestyle. Jon Spayde illustrates, “Character develops itself in the stream of life” (Spayde 69). Meaning our personalities and beliefs are shaped by events that happen throughout our lives. With the help of an education that contains the proper liberal arts background, hopefully individuals can possess the moral skills necessary, to enliven the mind, and find joy in this seemingly ugly world.
The solid foundation of a liberal arts education further develops the minds of our youth to someday become well rounded adults. Students will achieve a higher level of appreciation, and understanding of life. Life is a blend of people with various different backgrounds, cultures and beliefs, people will always try to undermine your beliefs, and try to prove that your ideas are wrong. But through a liberal arts education we develop the means to express ourselves, to have a voice in the world and stand up for what we believe in. “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them” -Walt Disney. The world is a scary place, but giving students lessons in humanities, helps them realize that nobody has all the answers. Also, having a knowledge of our past and, a better understanding of it, helps us prepare for our future. As humans we have a drive in all of us, a drive that wants to know the answers to everything, and the quick solutions to our problems. The problem with that, is there is not always one right answer, nor is there ever a quick solution. Through debate and heated conversations on ethical topics discussed over and over again in the classroom, we allow students time to find their voice, and allow for the development of creativity, therefore broadening their minds. Topics like how should students be educated? are a means to an end, everyone has their own voice and their own opinion on the matter.
In summary I believe that finding a sense of self awareness through; spiritual, moral and ethical fulfillment should be a crucial part of education, because like I said before the world is a big and scary place, we do not need people trained like computers for competitiveness. Life does not work like a computer, with the guidance of a liberal arts education, broadening our minds and connecting our cultural beliefs, it will help improve our lives through a higher level of spirituality, connectedness and awareness. If my generation can pass this message onto our children, there may still be hope for the future of this country after all.

Works Cited

Thurber, C. H. The liberal-arts college. The Journal of Higher Education, (1934). 382-388. Web. 9 Sep 2014.
Spayde, Jon. "Learning in the Key of Life." Ed. Andrea A. Lunsford and John J. Ruszkiewics. The Presence of Others: Voices That Call for Response. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2000. 69. Print.
Newman, John Henry. "The Idea of a University." The Presence of Others: Voices and Images That Call for Response. Ed. Andrea A. Lunsford and John J. Ruszkiewicz. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2000. 51-55. Print.
Beuttler, Fred W. "Moral Philosophy In A Social Scientific Age: A Proposal To Reintegrate The Undergraduate Curriculum." Christian Higher Education 11.2 (2012): 81-93. Academic Search Premier. Web. 9 Sep. 2014.

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