I approached the concept of “Principles of Liberal Education” by asking myself lots of questions: “What should a liberal education accomplish?” “What should a student experience as part of a liberal education?” “When I see a liberal arts student accept a diploma at commencement, what do I hope that student has gained from his/her experiences here?”
My thoughts are most easily addressed as answers to this last question. My ideas are not nearly as developed as the ideas of many of my colleagues, and what follows represents a first attempt at documenting fairly disjoint thoughts that have until now only existed as fleeting thoughts during all-too-rare reflective moments.
So, when I see a liberal arts student graduate, what do I hope the student has gained from a liberal education?
I hope the student has gained the ability to reason carefully and critically.
Liberally educated people should be able to recognize and distinguish between good logic and flawed logic. They should be able to formulate thoughtful opinions, basing them on an appropriate mixture of reason and emotion. It is particularly important for students to think critically about their own fundamental beliefs, and a liberal education should provide opportunities to do just that.
I hope the student knows how to communicate effectively and with clarity.
Opportunities for communication of many different types await the student. From formal oral presentations to informal personal conversations, from written statements and essays to technical scientific reports, a liberal arts graduate should be able to effective and clear in communication with others.
I hope the student has developed a personal understanding of beauty.
Poetry, literature, music, scientific discovery, mathematical ingenuity, cleverly crafted arguments, historical connections, ... . To acknowledge and observe beauty is deeply enriching, and a liberal education should help students discover beauty in a variety of places.
I hope the student feels a sense of membership in a global community.
Not only does the student need to feel a sense of membership, he/she also must have the abilities, skills, and desire to be a competent, productive member of this community.
I hope the student has developed a desire to learn and an ability to learn independently.
A student should realize that the official end of a liberal education is just the beginning of an adulthood full of learning and growing.
Posted by love at
September 20, 2004 08:49 AM
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