By Scott Summit
Recently, I have been thinking a lot about learning, and obtaining a liberal education. I feel like my high school years were the formative years, and shaped who I have become today. I was able to read, study, discuss and learn more than any other time during my life. I was able to obtain a great liberal education, partly because my parents allowed me to do non-traditional schooling between the years 15 and 18.
Most young adults between 14 and 18 attend a public high school, charter or private school. I had the opportunity to attend a mixture of all three. I attended at least 7 different schools or groups during this time. I went part time to South Cache and Mountain Crest, the local public schools. I also attended Williamsburg Academy, Cincinnatus Academy, and the Scholar Academy. These were all amazing experiences, and provide a rich learning environment.
Now that I am older and have more responsibilities,I feel that I have been neglecting learning. That is not to say I am not learning, but I yearn for more time study and learn about a bunch of different topics. I loved attending Utah State University, and learning about databases, data analytics, and technology. I made many connections and relationships with teachers and students. I hope to one day attend graduate school, and get a Masters of Information Systems and a Statistics degree.
While I long for more time, I have decided that I can learn with the limited time I have now. I found an interesting quote today when I Googled “liberal education. ”While liberalism’s meaning is often bastardized by pundits in the media, a liberal is a someone who has freed themselves from bigotry, authoritarian attitudes and established dogmas. Liberalism gets a bad name because of the elitism attached to attaining a Liberal Arts education at a prestigious University. Many highly educated people perpetuate this elitism through their often thinly-veiled contempt for people of lower educational attainment and lesser financial means. This is misguided. A real liberal is someone who seeks the freedom and equality of all people -- everywhere in the world — and does not allow him or herself to be caged by any institutions or class biases.” (Pearce 2014)
This is the way I feel about liberal education. I feel that obtaining a liberal education can liberate you from bias, and change the lens which you view the world. A liberal education will expand your mind, change your beliefs, and help you understand and have empathy for others. By studying classic literature, you can identify the origins cultural beliefs come from, and how society has changed. A liberal education exposes you to differing opinions and beliefs, and teaches tolerance.
In an article entitled “A 'major' choice: USU students, experts debate value of a university major” (Opsahl 2016) the Herald Journal, the paper profiled the difficulties of students who choose to pursue and arts or liberal education degree at a traditional university. Students at USU were asked about the challenges they faced, and how they can be overcome. The article highlights how politicians and others are pushing students today to study STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) fields, but we are neglecting the liberal arts.
The STEM fields are what will help propel society into the future, but I feel like discounting liberal education is a big mistake. Reading the classics means you learn to think like the great minds of history. Reading the classics means you get to understand the basis of the free world. In short, studying and understanding the classics is something I believe everyone should strive for. An often overlooked part of a liberal education is discussion. This will allow you to refine your ideas through argument, critical evaluation of ideas, and defending your beliefs. This allows you to own your opinions, and cements them in your character.
Now, I do understand how boring some classics are. I dislike reading Charles Dickens and Mark Twain, while I believe many newer books are amazing. I believe their stories of Dickens and Twain are important, but I fall asleep while reading them. My mom loves the book 'As a man thinketh', while I do no. I also do not believe we must all read Plato and Aristotle in Greek. I believe it is best to know of their ideas and the importance of them.
To be well educated in something I believe we should all strive for. Getting a liberal education is an important part of our education. Obtaining a useful skill is necessary, such as a college degree, but we need not neglect the classics. An important lesson I have learned is that not everyone has to read and love the same things. Some may love poetry, while others love novels. There are many different I don’t like classic books that others have love. I believe think that classics is a fluid term, something that is different for each of us. Each individual needs to discover those books other other materials that they love.
We are all different. That is the way God intended us to be. There seems to be list of classics that everyone agrees are classics, such as the Bible and Declaration of Independence. While I have come up with a list of 50 great books I feel everyone should read, your list is probably different than mine. Each of those books on my list was chosen because they have influenced me and helped me become who I am today.
I challenge each of you to think more about obtaining a liberal education. You don’t have to become well versed in all classics material to get a liberal education. What matters is that you identify topics that have always interested, and learn more about them. I can promise that a liberal education helps broaden your horizons, expand your knowledge, and help you understand others. And these are great things that are sorely needed in the world today.
BibliographyOpsahl, Kevin. 2016. Herald Journal. April 30. Accessed May 2, 2016. http://news.hjnews.com/allaccess/a-major-choice-usu-students-experts-debate-value-of-a/article_5d13db0a-d61b-5e21-ab1c-b6637c2a25bc.html.
Pearce, Kyle. 2014. DIYGenuis. May 24. Accessed May 2, 2016. https://www.diygenius.com/how-to-get-a-liberal-arts-education-without-going-to-university/.