What is Liberal Arts? You may have heard of it before, but never taken the time to see what it’s all about. For some the idea of anything involving ‘art’ is useless to the general public. For others the term ‘liberal’ indicates sympathy with left-leaning politics. Neither statement could be further from the truth. Liberal Arts are “Academic subjects such as literature, philosophy, mathematics, and social and physical sciences as distinct from professional and technical subjects.” But they are even much more than that.
As Professor Cecilia Gaposchkin of Dartmouth College reasons, “the point of the liberal arts approach is to learn how to think, not simply what to know”. Anyone can memorize information, some better than others. This is made even easier in a digital age where any question can be asked of Google, and reliably answered. The greatest minds in history are recognized as such because of their great powers of reasoning. They didn’t simply spout information when asked. They tested existing data and performed new experiments, always searching for a greater understanding of the truth.
In the words of Michael Roth, President of Weslyan University, “Education isn’t just an object that you use to get started in a career; education is a catalytic resource that continues to energize and shape your life. Education enhances your ability to develop new skills and capacities for connectivity that allow you to solve problems and seize opportunities.” Within any particular field, there is always a need not only to compute and store information, but also to use that information to acquire new information, in a safe and ethical fashion.
In a world with so many problems, we need people who can give us some answers. Now more than ever we need people who know how to think. Now more than ever we need people who can reason, who use their education for something greater. Now more than ever, we need Liberal Arts.