A. What are the “liberal arts”?
Many, if not most, institutions of higher education in the U.S. (universities and colleges) offer some form of a “liberal arts” education. The education in its original form derived from the Greeks and Romans, who thought that one could only be a free and truly liberated citizen if one had an education that covered mathematics, logic, philosophy, the arts (broadly defined), the letters (humanities), the sciences and history. Over time, this template has evolved and includes the study of social institutions and structure in fields like psychology, sociology, anthropology, economics, politics, etc.
The general idea is to offer an education that provides both breadth, through the ability to study a wide range of disciplines, and depth, with an academic “major” which requires a large number of courses concentrated in one area. In the best scenario one makes connections between what one has studied in depth to the broader range of issues, societal problems and perspectives that humans confront.
“Liberal arts” does not refer to one’s political beliefs (liberal vs. conservative), and nor is it a focus on the arts, specifically. It is an effort to educate one’s self for a lifetime – to be able to make one’s own decisions, to distinguish between good and bad information, and to learn how to be a good citizen. To put it another way, you will spend the rest of your life thinking and deciding, so a liberal arts education allows your brain to be an interesting place to spend the rest of your life.
B. Why a Liberal Arts College?