The liberal arts spiel is an old speech to many of the upperclassmen at Washington College. The dogma is thrown at us freshman year, and we listened with blank stares as administrators informed us of the benefits of a “liberal arts” education at WC. As the semesters progressed, the term usually remained a mystery to most students.
Yes, we take classes in the humanities and the arts, but so what?
What’s the big deal?
Numerous articles were written on the subject over the summer, many of the authors crying out that despite a rough economy, the value of the liberal arts cannot be monetized.
People are losing faith in the humanities and these days, many want a degree, not necessarily an education.
In her book, Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities, Martha Nussbaum summarizes it quite well by declaring that the decline in popularity of the liberal arts produces “generations of useful machines, rather than complete citizens who can think for themselves.” I couldn’t agree more.
During a summer internship here in Chestertown, I realized that the variety of my classes actually taught me skills I didn’t even know I had.
Critical and independent thinking, synthesizing, and resourcefulness all emerged when I needed them in my job setting. The value of WC’s education finally came to my attention, and what I jokingly referred to as my “useless” major became something incredibly valuable.
As we dive into the new school year, my hope is that students throw off the worries of a poor economy, and get curious. Don’t view your courses as simple hoops to jump through, see them as an opportunity to look into someone else’s mind: minds of poets, scientists, anthropologists, and philosophers.
Each day that you drag your feet to a “distribution” class, you’re honing skills that are truly invaluable not just in the job market, but in life.