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Liberal Arts

Liberal Arts

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What is the value of a liberal arts education? Many students considering college may be asking themselves this question. One of the main goals of this website is to provide resources to students that will help them to think through this question and come to their own conclusion about it.

A second goal of this website is to serve as a resource for faculty members who are interested in teaching a course on the liberal arts. While many faculty members have developed an expertise in the liberal arts, the humanities, or the sciences, often enough they have not taught a course on the value and meaning of a liberal education itself. On this website, faculty will find a variety of different resources that may help them design and teach their own course on the value of a liberal arts education.

This website was made possible by a generous grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). In the spring of 2012, two faculty members from Nazareth College, Scott M. Campbell and Marjorie Roth, received an Enduring Questions grant from the NEH to design and teach a course based on this question: "What is the value of a liberal arts education?" The goal of the course was to explore with students different perspectives on the liberal arts, from the ancient to the modern, and consider different motivations for the pursuit of liberal education.

The course was first taught in the spring of 2013. On this website, you will find the syllabus for the course, brief synopses of each of the texts used, comments from students (both on the texts and on the class as a whole), historical images of the 7 classical liberal arts, and background resources about liberal education.

There are many different reasons for studying the liberal arts, all of which were explored in the class:

  • Political: A liberal education may show students how to become citizens, actively engaged in the social life of their communities.
  • Vocational: Studying the liberal arts provides students with skills in critical thinking, reading, writing, speaking, and analyzing complex material, which they will need regardless of which vocation they choose to pursue.
  • Moral: The liberal arts have always had an ethical goal. From Plato to Copernicus, we see that studying the liberal arts, one learned how to put together concepts and ideas in a way that would bring stability and order into your own life, making you a better and more stable person.
  • Intellectual: While the liberal arts have practical advantages, they are also worth studying simply because learning itself can strengthen the mind and make life richer and more meaningful.
  • Metaphysical: Traditionally, it was thought that studying the liberal arts would enable one to reach higher and higher levels of reality. This can be explored from a philosophical or a religious perspective. But even today, we can see how studying the humanities shows us sacred dimensions of human life, which we might not see otherwise.
  • Cross-cultural: It is not just Western culture that values the study of the humanities. Studying the idea of liberal education bridges the gap between Eastern and Western culture by showing how all people value the study of the humanities.
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