As you new Wheaton students are settling into new schedules and routines, I’m sure your asking yourselves and others, “I’m a Business major so why am I in Art Survey? I’m a Philosophy major so why am I in Physics? I’m a Spanish major so why am I in Anthropology?” I know this because my friends and I asked the same questions, and we wasted three years trying to figure it out. I do not wish the same on you. I want you to know the meaning and significance of a liberal education as you begin your time at Wheaton, so you can take full advantage of your opportunity.
I want you to understand the underlying principles of why our institution highly stresses liberal education.
To fully appreciate why we are liberally educated at Wheaton, we must start with its history. Liberal education originated with the ancient Greeks—only a few young men, who came from wealthier families and who were not forced to go into what we call the real world, were liberally education. From the beginning, it was considered a gift to learn liberally. Hence, liberal education is structured for an environment, “for those who were politically and economically free” (http://www.wheaton.edu/Academics/Liberal-Arts). We must recognize this gift we’ve been given to dwell and study at an institution for liberal learning is a privilege, not a right.
Now to the basics: liberal education is not just learning for your career; it’s training for life. Liberal education promotes that life preparation can be accomplished through studying the seven post-classical subjects: grammar, rhetoric, arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy,” (http://www.wheaton.edu/Academics/Liberal-Arts).
Although, critics argue liberal art students waste time studying multiple disciplines, and instead promote the idea to concentrate and master one subject. However, in reality, liberal education’s multi-practice awareness builds intellectual skills professional schools cannot. Liberal education presents students with at least 6 major benefits, according to Robert Harris in On the Purpose of a Liberal Education:
1. Liberal education teaches students how to think
Think of it this way: your brain is a muscle. A strong muscle needs to be worked out correctly. Its exercises cannot be repetitive for then the muscle will adapt and cease its development. Therefore, the brain needs to be drilled in different techniques for the variety makes the brain into a more useful tool for critical thinking and analysis. In return, these workouts aid you, the learner, to think for yourself by connecting dots throughout concepts and principles in various frameworks.
2. Liberal education teaches students how to learn
It allows students to develop required skills to become lifelong learners, which will come in handy when absorbing new information and strategies needed to perform in your careers with excellence.
3. Liberal education allows students to see things whole
The opportunity to study outside a specific major or path will advance your developing worldview. This concept is crucial to liberal education’s structure and purpose for the world’s majors and industries are not divided; all aspects in life affect how the world goes round. A broader view will allow you to live a systematic life with a wide range of understanding of different contexts.
4. Liberal education Enhances students’ wisdom and faith
This is one of the most important aspects of a liberal education for gaining wisdom is one of the highest callings from God. Throughout the educational journey you will learn to see you who are and what you need to modify to become a better human being.
5. Liberal education makes students better teachers
You may not be going into a teaching profession, but we are all teachers at some point. We inform daily by sharing our understanding and knowledge about life; every time we communicate there is an exchange of teaching and learning.
6. Liberal education contributes to students’ happiness
Knowing more about life increases pleasure. As stated by Harris, “a cultivated mind enjoys itself and life,” and, “knowledge makes you smarter and smarter makes you happier.” It’s been proven that people who are highly educated have a higher satisfaction in life.
At the end of the day, we should all know what we are doing here at Wheaton, which one of those reasons is to study liberally. Unfortunately, yes, liberal education does have its downfalls, but they are extremely outweighed by the pros, including the 7 benefits highlighted by Robert Harris. We are all truly blessed to have the opportunity to be liberally educated, and I hope you take full advantage of its benefits as you learn, grow and develop.
• Reading: On the Purpose of a Liberal Arts Education by Robert Harris (modesofinquiry.wordpress.com)
Harris, Robert. “On the Purpose of a Liberal Arts Education.” On the Purpose of a Liberal Arts Education. Virtual Salt, n.d. Web. 16 Sept. 2013. .
“The Liberal Arts.” Wheaton College. Wheaton College, n.d. Web. 16 Sept. 2013. .
- Liberal Arts Key to Preparing Leaders: US Educator (thejakartaglobe.com)
- Reading: On the Purpose of a Liberal Arts Education by Robert Harris (modesofinquiry.wordpress.com)