Friday, February 12, 2010

How important are the liberal arts?

A few weeks, maybe even a month ago, I was driving home from somewhere with my grandma. Somehow we got on to the topic of discussing my college plans, being that this year is my final year of high school. I told her the one college I really want to go to is the University of East Anglia but I have a lot of back-ups in New England, but that I didn't apply to any of them because for UEA I want to save up money for moving costs first, and in the case of the New England colleges I wanted to visit them, but still hadn't been out as mom hadn't taken me. In hindsight, I could've just paid for a ticket myself and gotten one of my several relatives who live in Massachusetts to take me around. Uncle Rick or my cousin Kim would've been more than happy to. But it's whatever. Anyway, back to the story. Being that I'm not going away to college come autumn, much as I want to, I'm going to community college. I figure this is a good thing because I can get the necessary credits out of the way for courses I suck at, like math. Didn't say this to her, mind. When I told her about going to community college, she said that it was a good idea, because then I could get "all that liberal arts nonsense done with and take real classes."

As a writer, I obviously took offence to this. As someone who is planning to major in English literature, I took offence to this. Being that it was my grandmother, I just nodded and smiled. Okay, mum-mum, whatever you say, and all that. But last night I was thinking about that, and to mind came one question: How important are the liberal arts? I don't mean how important are things like writing and drama in the real world. Drama, perhaps, you could make a case for as being useless, the same for painters and sculptors...I wouldn't, but you could. But literature would be a very hard thing to make a case for as being useless. So no, I don't mean the liberal arts are of no value to the real world. I mean how important are liberal arts courses? Creative writing, is that really necessary?

At the end of the day, I say the liberal arts are important, even in schools. I say this because, A. Liberal arts, traditionally, are simply the classical education structure. You know what that consists of? Grammar, rhetoric, logic, geometry, arithmetic, music, and astronomy. and B. I'm a writer. Of course I'm going to say I want courses that pander to my tastes. I have a vested interest; sue me.

Although I doubt I need to explain further, just to be clear, the liberal arts are no longer the classical system. Liberal arts denotes a curriculum that imparts general knowledge and increases intellectual abilities rather than teaching a student some professional or technical skill. These days it's things like literature, philosophy, and history. So I pose my question to the thin air and maybe readers: How important are the liberal arts?

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