Out of all the articles I’ve read up and down Facebook, the one theme that tends to sting the most is from the articles about liberal arts colleges. I’ll admit it. I had no idea what I was doing when I was choosing a college in high school. But I’m not a math-inclined person, I’m not so keen on science, and I’m not-too-shabby at English. So, yes, I’m biased– I picked a small liberal arts college in Indiana, the home of everything small and liberal arts.
I grew up near a large college town, so downsizing to a small, condensed campus with almost no Greek life and class sizes of four was…actually okay. In spite of the criticisms about liberal arts, there are some key points that most of these critics miss. Sure, liberal arts isn’t for everyone, but it shouldn’t be written off as a useless add-on to a bland, middle class society.
1. It is all-encompassing. In my half-finished time at college, I’ve studied math, English, social sciences, history, the Cold War, biology, theory, fact, fiction, and everything in-between. If you study everything, you find out more about what your likes and dislikes are than you’d think. You also discover that the world is bigger than whatever subject you chose for its monetary value (or something like that).
2. It focuses on critical thinking. If there’s one thing I’ve learned how to do at college, it’s research. After every ill-conceived, double-fisted-coffee night I’ve spent at the library, I’ve learned that research is more than something you do the night before a paper is due. Research helps you in everything from your career field to your personal life. Knowing how to regurgitate information is wonderful, but the skill of knowing how and where to look is irreplaceable. The skill of thinking on your feet is invaluable.
3. It builds personal relationships. I’ve never been to a big school. My high school class was a grand total of 14; my first college class might have topped at 30. Depending on how you look at this, it might be the worst experience on earth. However, it might also be something that breeds better interpersonal skills than you’d find in the kid in the back of the Gen Psych class totaling at 200. Discussion counts; the ability to react rationally and critically to another person’s argument is something that you will not find in a general lecture class. Liberal arts is built upon a foundation of discussion-based learning; there is no viable way to become inactive in your studies. You will know everyone worth knowing and be all the better for it once you’re done with your time at a small school.
4. It’s a good foundation. Not everyone wants to go beyond undergraduate; not everyone should. But liberal arts colleges bring students in contact with such a wide range of academic studies that it is the perfect stepping stone to a post-graduate career. To all you overachieving slackers: this is not a free pass to avoid real life. There is life beyond graduate school. There is life beyond academics. Learn this and know it well, because it is also the perfect first step to a career; everyone has experience in their major. Liberal arts students have experience far beyond it.
5. It fosters good citizenship. We live in a world where most people live by the mantra “looking out for number one.” Liberal arts counters this by forcing students out of their comfort zone. You’re science-minded? Good, take ten history credits and tell me what you’ve learned. You’re an English major? Go learn to write about something besides literature. Learning something outside of your range of interests fosters understanding; it reminds you that you will never be the smartest or the most well-read in every subject. The world can’t survive without teamwork. We all have different gifts, and liberal arts fosters and combines our differences.
Liberal arts isn’t perfect; no education system is. Even so, liberal arts celebrates diversity. In these changing times, that’s something the world can embrace. No two humans are the same, and this particular format of university nurtures this in both learning and living. Of course, there will be a lot of writing, thinking, and transforming. That’s the backbone of liberal arts: understanding and accepting the differences we each face.
Photo Source: www.swarthmore.edu