Liberal Arts Education Essay, Research Paper
A Liberal Arts Education
A liberal arts education provides students with a broad spectrum of information enabling them to expand knowledge and to advance society in a positive direction. This universal education provides a strong foundation of knowledge in many subjects. The students can observe the strengths and capabilities, as well as the limitations of each field of study. This allows the students to find connections between diverse fields of study, to explore them, and to discover new theories, thoughts, or inventions. It allows the students to investigate areas of intrigue and create new fields of study by blending subjects that compliment each other. With these new inventions, discoveries, ideas, and new methods of problem solving, society will advance in a positive direction. Standards of living will rise with these inventions and discoveries, making society more productive and more capable of controlling its surroundings. New thoughts and theories will give insight to those who desire meaning and understanding of concepts.
A liberal arts education provides a strong foundation of knowledge in many fields and subjects allowing students to create new theories, inventions, and connections between fields. With this foundation, great thinkers can build and expand from what others have learned rather than wasting time and effort on what has already been discovered. While it is true that the factual information about each subject is very important, the most useful tool liberal arts students can possess is the knowledge of the strengths and capabilities of each individual field, as well as the weaknesses and restrictions. With this knowledge, the students can mesh attributes of different subjects to formulate new and more brilliant concepts; the brilliance being a function of the strengths and compatibility of the chosen subjects. As in mixing colors, a new color can only be created by mixing different colors. The brilliance of this new color depends on the shades and hues of the colors used to create it. The same is true for education. The resulting idea or innovation is a function of the aptness and compatibility of the subjects meshed to create it. For example, the invention of the transistor, one of the most important electronic devices, was developed by a team of research specialists. Specialized mathematicians, scientists, physicists, and engineers all worked together to find a quicker, more efficient way to process the overload of telephone calls. The leaders of this research team had to be highly educated in every one of those fields of study, as well as language. They had to practically translate the technical terms of each field to the other team members so each one understood the approach the team was taking. Most notably, though, the team leaders came up with an approach of improving the efficiency of the vacuum tube in the transistor, which resulted in one of the most practical electrical innovations of all time. The solution the leaders came up with was ingenious. Through this, society benefited by being able to communicate more quickly and more clearly. Businesses, armed forces, and governments today greatly depend on the rapidness of telephone calls. This high level of communication in society is a direct result of the innovative improvement of the transistor by liberal arts educated minds.
A better understanding of each facet of education comes from understanding the dependence of each subject upon one another. Each subject is a branch of education and every branch stems from the same tree. Some branches diverge and have twigs and branches of their own, but everything is joined at the root. Education is very similar because each branch of knowledge relies on the other in order to advance. For example, science relies on language to document and publish experimental results. If these findings are published inaccurately, other scientists who use these publications in their own research will be misinformed. Each subject relies on another in some way. It is easier to understand each branch of the tree better if you can see how it is involved universally: where it stemmed from, and how it is dependent upon other branches; what branches stemmed from it, and how they are dependent upon it. John Henry Newman, in his “The Idea of a University”, said, “true enlargement of mind ? is the power of viewing many things at once as one whole, of referring them severally to their true place in the universal system, of understanding their respective values, and determining their mutual dependence”(38). Newman is saying quite directly that in order to understand something, it must be looked at as one component of a universal picture. He is saying that when something is closely examined, there are no guidelines or basis for comparison, but when it is looked at universally, it is easier to see relationships and similarities making innovations more attainable. For example, the mathematical operations of algebra fulfill many practical needs in science. The ability to find values for unknown variables within sets of equations is a tool that science heavily relies on. The reason algebra is so conveniently practical in relation to science is because it was developed as a tool for science. The tools of algebra would not be present if Diophantus, the developer of algebra, had not been aware of the overall conditions his mathematical system needed to fulfill. Algebra serves society through science and its accomplishments. From building a nuclear reactor to altering chromosomes in a person?s genetic makeup, every scientific field originates back to the basic rules of algebra. All of the groundbreaking advancements in society through science are functions of this mathematical tool developed to aid and expand science.
When the students have acquired a liberal arts education, a freedom to explore new ideas and concepts comes with it. Studying under one subject restricts students to rules and regulations held within the field, which sometimes act as barriers to the students keeping them from developing unconventional or abstract ideas. Newman uses a metaphor to explain this concept of freedom:
Seafaring men, for example, range from one end of the earth to the other?They sleep, and they rise up, and they find themselves now in Europe, now is Asia; they see visions of great cities, and wild regions; they are in the marts of commerce, or amid the islands of the South; they gaze on Pompey?s Pillar, or on the Andes; and nothing which meets them carries them forward or backward, to any idea beyond itself. Nothing has a drift or relation; nothing has a history or a promise. Everything stands by itself, and comes and goes in its turn, like the shifting scenes of a show, which leave the spectator where he was(38).
Newman is describing the lifestyle of liberal arts students in metaphorical context symbolizing exotic places as different fields of study. He is saying that the students can go any place that sparks curiosity without hesitation and without limits, and that there are no barriers or restraints that confine or restrict the students from wandering into an innovation. The students are carried by the flow of the current and that is all. Some of the greatest inventions have been discovered though the most abnormal experimental procedures. The telephone was an invention that was not invented on behalf of need, but rather a stroke of good luck combined with the innovation of a free-thinker. While working on another invention, Alexander Graham Bell heard the vibrations of a plucked wire running from one room to another and hypothesized that voices could be carried by the same method. Bell created the first working telephone just over nine months after this incident and the impact of the telephone on society over the past 120 years is immeasurable. Others may not have indulged in such a wild idea, but the result revolutionized communication and advanced society to another level. The telephone made it possible to relay and distribute knowledge and information, enjoy the sound of a loved one?s far away voice, and communicate danger in any regard. It allows us to settle disputes, avoid misinterpretation, and keep up positive relations with leaders of other countries. Inventions that advance society, such as this, demonstrate the value of a liberal arts education.
A liberal arts education provides students with a strong foundation of universal knowledge that allows them to think without barriers or restrictions. It allows imaginative thoughts to develop freely and blossom into discoveries and inventions which, in turn, advance society to higher levels. Society gains control, stability, and a higher standard of living with these new inventions and theories. It is evident that a liberal arts education is one of the most useful tool for advancing society in a positive direction.