In defense of the liberal arts

I attend a liberal arts university. In addition to the English classes for my major, I am required to attend history, Bible, communications, philosophy, science, arts (music, art, or theater), and math/computer science classes. Sometimes my friends, here or at other liberal arts schools, complain about taking so many classes unrelated to their majors. While I could write a long defense of liberal arts, it would be boring and probably redundant for most of you. Instead, I would like to share a story that illustrates some of my favorite aspects of a liberal arts education.

This semester I am taking (in addition to other things) a philosophy class exploring major patterns in Western thought and a British Literature survey class. These two classes meet on the same day, separated by four hours. One morning last week, we studied Seneca in my philosophy class. Specifically, we read a selection from “On Happiness” and discussed his belief that happiness only accompanies virtue. 4 hours later, I was listening to a lecture on Alexander Pope (totally fascinating, but that’s a different story!). My teacher mentioned some of his writings that we didn’t read and told us that he believed virtue was happiness. In a terrific “ah-ha!” moment, I made the connection: Pope is a neoclassic, almost certainly well-studied in the Greek and Roman writers – if not Seneca, then others like him.  When I mentioned the connection, half the class nodded along with me, because they too are taking that philosophy class. Instead of simply knowing that the neoclassics studied the classic writers and allude to and copy them, we got to see it in action.

This is why I love liberal arts. Instead of classes being isolated, individual subjects, they all weave and connect – exactly like real life. In real life, our english is not separate from history, arts from science, philosophy from communication. They all come together to give us a more complete picture of the world. Why would anyone ever resign themselves to one tiny thread when they can view the whole tapestry?

Professional Student

Is it too soon to say that I might love college? Don’t get me wrong, people. I’m not crazy. I have no affection for getting up early, having tons of projects due, or living in a dorm. But I do love learning. About anything and everything. College has been an amazing way to do exactly that. Over Christmas break, as I prepared for my new classes, I found myself enthralled with the idea of being able to learn so much.

But there’s a problem. I’m an English major. I love literature and words and writing, so I think this is a good fit for me. But that major doesn’t allow for dabbling in piano, psychology, business, speech, theater, journalism, cello, and whatever else happens to pop into my head. My (brilliant) brother-in-law thinks I should be a humanities major (he’s a little biased), but I love English, so I have no intent to switch.

The best solution I’ve been able to come up with is dabbling in what I find important right now, and saving the rest for later. I can always take classes outside of my college degree, or I can put my reading and researching skills to use and learn on my own. Being a professional student doesn’t seem like it will work out as a career plan (unfortunately), but I intend to learn as much as possible every day for the rest of my life.