Why Liberal Arts?

why liberal arts educationPost by Dr. Michele Hernandez

Many parents ask us “why liberal arts?” Why not just business/medicine/law – what relevance do the liberal arts have for students today amidst all of this technology, focus on money, and career and technological advancements? My former professor and (current) friend Professor James Tatum from Dartmouth College writes an elegant defense of classics in particular, and liberal arts in general, in the following article written as part of a debate with a Nigerian intellectual.  As you know, I am a humanist at heart and believe strongly in classics and liberal arts as a lifetime path. In Professor Tatum’s words, see the below but do yourself a favor and read the whole piece:

Classics is the study of the civilizations which flourished in and around the ancient Mediterranean Sea—a world characterized by extraordinary ethnic, linguistic, religious, and cultural diversity. To study Classics is to engage with the rich variety of the remains of these ancient civilizations: their art, literature, law, religion, philosophy, music, theater, and politics. Classics provides valuable insight into the ways in which the past has shaped the world’s present languages, philosophies, literatures, religions, political and scientific thought, and artistic traditions. Because Classics is a discipline that takes as its subject entire cultures—rather than a particular culture—classicists engage with a variety of modern academic fields. In this sense, Classics is the most all-encompassing and flexible of disciplines in the humanities…

“People who study Classics, philosophy, history (of any period and any nation or nations), literatures, other languages than the one they are born speaking—all of these will have the power to see what is going on in their world and at least the potential of having an educated imagination to respond to it,” says Prof. Tatum.

One Comment

  1. Jill

    Posted on January 24, 2015 at 1:29 pm

    Those who find the humanist perspective unpersuasive may wish to look to the empirical data – philosophy and classics majors also rank very near the top of every category of graduate school admissions test (GMAT, LSAT, MCAT, GRE) achievement and, cumulatively, outperform every other major. If you look very closely at the data, you’ll discover this fact stands despite the lowering effect on philosophy majors’ results when their scores are grouped with (supposedly) similarly majors. Mom of a philosophy (btw M&M – she’s also completing a PHI honors thesis) and history double major at the College of William & Mary and boot camp grad. She makes highly intelligent choices 🙂

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.