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Tue Aug 18, 2020, 10:08 AM

The "Liberal Arts"

Last edited Tue Aug 18, 2020, 02:08 PM - Edit history (1)

I graduated from Sweet Briar College in 1979. I majored in Music and Fine Arts. I studied three modern languages. I studied music history, art history, and theater history. I took two semesters of European Civilization. I composed rondos and song cycles and analyzed music scores of symphonies. I found overlap of other courses in the ones I was currently taking. I learned Greek philosophy, history, and cultural references.

On final examinations, my professors didn't want a regurgitation of my notes. They wanted me to demonstrate that I UNDERSTOOD the nuances, the connections, the relevancy, and the application for new situations. Even the foreign languages.

While I had my own individual program of education, my friends shared many of the courses I took. Some specialized in English Literature, Modern Dance, History, Economics, Biology, et al. We could discuss any pedestrian subject at a meal and pull out a cultural reference that the others understood.

I thought I was learning everything that ALL educated people should know. Now I know better.

I am more than educated. I am cultured.

While I don't present myself as Elite, unfortunately by default, that's what I am. I know more than many other college graduates. I know how to employ critical thinking and how to defend my theses. Without a second thought, I'll let slip a "common" French phrase that is incomprehensible. Even using certain English vocabulary turns into an exercise of using a foreign language among certain people.

While I value the advantages that Liberal Arts have given me, I also feel humbled because I also believe that this kind of education is for a privileged few. And there were plenty of students at Sweet Briar who took the courses and didn't seem to be transformed by this Knowledge.

I'm not saying that I know "too much." I have a feeling of democracy where on one hand, I wish it were more widely available; and on the other hand, it would be deferred or refused as it would be irrelevant to the needs of others who depend upon raw survival, not a heightened awareness of society, the world, and culture.

Epilogue: In light of its survival, Sweet Briar College is a now a low-impact liberal arts college. In order to attract more students, it has altered its curriculum to CORE where courses are directed towards the goals of leadership and immediate applicability. Many of the language courses are gone. Music is no longer music history in eras or music theory. While there is performance, there is no theater history. What I was fortunate enough to have is no longer offered. I understand why. The college would have disappeared from the face of the earth without sufficient enrollment and would have had the same result of no liberal arts.

All I can do as a teacher in elementary schools is to try to introduce the principles I garnered from my four years. And hope for the future.

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Reply The "Liberal Arts" (Original post)
no_hypocrisy Aug 2020 OP
SheltieLover Aug 2020 #1
CaptYossarian Aug 2020 #2
no_hypocrisy Aug 2020 #3
CaptYossarian Aug 2020 #4

Response to no_hypocrisy (Original post)

Tue Aug 18, 2020, 10:17 AM

1. Your students are very fortunate to have you!

Your education sounds wonderfully broad & culturally delicious!

Yes, it is heartbreaking that many colleges and universities have had to drop such important offerings.

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Response to no_hypocrisy (Original post)

Tue Aug 18, 2020, 11:06 AM

2. Congratulations on making tremendous choices at what I assume was a traditionally young age.

My interpretation of the word "liberal" is more. You've certainly gotten the most out of your four years, but you kind of sound apologetic about it.

Maybe it's because of today's definition of elite. Yes, you are elite, but in the more traditional sense. If you substitute the word unique, that may bring you more comfort and be less apologetic. Maybe I don't understand because I'm too busy envying your experiences.

Another thing: Many people make the deliberate choice not to attend any post-secondary schools. If these are the people who call you elite, they're part of the problem. One line from Caddyshack that seems appropriate is "The world needs ditch diggers too".

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Response to CaptYossarian (Reply #2)

Tue Aug 18, 2020, 11:14 AM

3. Understood and appreciated.

By Elite, there is an implication of superiority, of being better than a certain demographic. In that application, I reiterate that I am humbled by my privilege and advantages. I appreciate my place in the world because of my education and experience.

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Response to no_hypocrisy (Reply #3)

Tue Aug 18, 2020, 11:24 AM

4. In a world saturated with double standards, the term is just fine

when describing professional athletes.

But when you make $23 million a year to play kids' games, anything is easier to swallow.

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