Defining the Liberal Arts

Defining the liberal arts. It’s not easy. There may be a definition in the Webster’s dictionary for what the liberal arts are, but it does not cover the entirety of what a liberal arts experience is as a whole. I went to a small private school with forty people in my grade for 9 years. When I had to make my transition to high school, I ended up going to a school of 3,400 students, with roughly 800 kids per grade. The leap was about as big as one can get. During my time in high school I saw how some kids struggled with the anonymity while others flourished. Some students are great with self motivation and even better with working on their own with out needing help, but I knew that I learned best with smaller classes and with teachers who knew me. I enjoyed both my time at my elementary and middle school as well as my high school very much, but what my 13 or so years in school had taught me was that I learned best in small environments where I could ask questions and voice my opinion without too much competition or waiting for the teachers attention. I knew that a liberal arts college was where I needed to be. At a liberal arts college I would have small classes with students who are motivated and for the most part did not want to blend into the background of the classroom but rather voice their opinions and discuss complex, interesting topics together. Although some people may think that liberal arts colleges are a joke or do not give as prestigious an education as some of the larger, more renowned state schools around the United States, I believe that Victor Ferrall is right when he explains in his book Liberal Arts at the Brink that a liberal arts education “facilitates and enhances the vocational experience by honing the way the mind works and stimulating enthusiasm for using it, and by enriching the entire life experience (18). Even though liberal arts colleges may not specialize for jobs as thoroughly as some other larger state schools do, I find that a more rounded education in college can be just as powerful and important when entering the labor market. A few of my friends go to Cal Poly SLO and they had to declare their major their first year and I find that to be absurd. How am I suppose to know what I want to specialize in at college when I am only 18 and all I have studied in my life are primarily the lab sciences, Math, History, and English? This is why I find the liberal arts colleges to be so important because they allow me to try many different things in a general manner and when I become interested in one I can later specialize and maybe even go to graduate school for the subject. Although the process maybe slower and more broad at a liberal arts college, I feel that it is more powerful and essential in the long run of education.

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