Column: The value of liberal arts education
USC Aiken held an event on Thursday, February 28 emphasizing the value of liberal arts.
As a liberal arts university, USC Aiken values all encompassing education.
The USC Aiken mission statement includes, “The University encourages excellence in research and creative pursuits and prepares students for success by challenging them to think critically and creatively, to communicate effectively, to learn independently, and to acquire breadth and depth of interdisciplinary knowledge. “
The term liberal arts stems from the Latin liber, meaning “free, unrestricted”, and the phrase liberales artes, which refers to the education received by members of the upper class, free citizens in ancient Greece and Rome, and was associated with civic duty and development of the whole mind.
The term liberal is now often associated with a political affiliation.
However, a liberal arts education is not restricted to, in fact is much more, than a political ideology. Liberal arts are defined as “college or university studies (such as language, philosophy, literature, abstract science) intended to provide chiefly general knowledge and to develop general intellectual capacities (such as reason and judgment) as opposed to professional or vocational skills.”
Many liberal arts universities use the Socrates method , which is a “question and dialogue format that challenged students to support their arguments and to stimulate critical thinking”. This method has been adopted by many professors at USC Aiken, which I have experienced and benefited from this method.
Fluency in critical thinking, rhetoric, analytics and literature is vital for healthy societal function.
Willard Dix writes of liberal arts education that, “Dedicated to the free and open pursuit of knowledge for its own sake, a liberal arts education provides a multi-faceted view of the world. It enables students to see beyond one perspective, encouraging them to understand others' even if they don't agree.”
The ability to thoroughly read and analyze texts is vital to the job market and political sphere. Fine arts can cross disciplines and become vital to technological advances.
Vivek Wadhwa writes that, “The key to good design is a combination of empathy and knowledge of the arts and humanities. Musicians and artists inherently have the greatest sense of creativity. You can teach artists how to use software and graphics tools; turning engineers into artists is hard.”
Liberal arts develops the whole person. The art of civil discourse, the mechanics and art of writing, the invaluable asset of critical thinking all are components of a liberal arts education. These disciplines develop better people, which develops better society wherever those liberally educated people reside. This is invaluable. We must freely think, we must critically think and we must protect the right do to so.