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A liberal arts education

A Liberal Arts Education

A liberal arts education provides students with a broad spectrum of

information enabling them to expand knowledge and to advance society in a

positive direction. This universal education provides a strong foundation of

knowledge in many subjects. The students can observe the strengths and

capabilities, as well as the limitations of each field of study. This allows

the students to find connections between diverse fields of study, to explore

them, and to discover new theories, thoughts, or inventions. It allows the

students to investigate areas of intrigue and create new fields of study by

blending subjects that compliment each other. With these new inventions,

discoveries, ideas, and new methods of problem solving, society will advance in

a positive direction. Standards of living will rise with these inventions and

discoveries, making society more productive and more capable of controlling its

surroundings. New thoughts and theories will give insight to those who desire

meaning and understanding of concepts.

A liberal arts education provides a strong foundation of knowledge in many

fields and subjects allowing students to create new theories, inventions, and

connections between fields. With this foundation, great thinkers can build and

expand from what others have learned rather than wasting time and effort on what

has already been discovered. While it is true that the factual information

about each subject is very important, the most useful tool liberal arts students

can possess is the knowledge of the strengths and capabilities of each

individual field, as well as the weaknesses and restrictions. With this

knowledge, the students can mesh attributes of different subjects to formulate

new and more brilliant concepts; the brilliance being a function of the

strengths and compatibility of the chosen subjects. As in mixing colors, a new

color can only be created by mixing different colors. The brilliance of this

new color depends on the shades and hues of the colors used to create it. The

same is true for education. The resulting idea or innovation is a function of

the aptness and compatibility of the subjects meshed to create it. For example,

the invention of the transistor, one of the most important electronic devices,

was developed by a team of research specialists. Specialized mathematicians,

scientists, physicists, and engineers all worked together to find a quicker,

more efficient way to process the overload of telephone calls. The leaders of

this research team had to be highly educated in every one of those fields of

study, as well as language. They had to practically translate the technical

terms of each field to the other team members so each one understood the

approach the team was taking. Most notably, though, the team leaders came up

with an approach of improving the efficiency of the vacuum tube in the

transistor, which resulted in one of the most practical electrical innovations

of all time. The solution the leaders came up with was ingenious. Through this,

society benefited by bei ng able to communicate more quickly and more clearly.

Businesses, armed forces, and governments today greatly depend on the rapidness

of telephone calls. This high level of communication in society is a direct

result of the innovative improvement of the transistor by liberal arts educated


A better understanding of each facet of education comes from

understanding the dependence of each subject upon one another. Each subject is

a branch of education and every branch stems from the same tree. Some branches

diverge and have twigs and branches of their own, but everything is joined at

the root. Education is very similar because each branch of knowledge relies on

the other in order to advance. For example, science relies on language to

document and publish experimental results. If these findings are published

inaccurately, other scientists who use these publications in their own research

will be misinformed. Each subject relies on another in some way. It is easier

to understand each branch of the tree better if you can see how it is involved

universally: where it stemmed from, and how it is dependent upon other branches;

what branches stemmed from it, and how they are dependent upon it. John Henry

Newman, in his "The Idea of a University", said, "true enlargement of mind ... is

the power of viewing many things at once as one whole, of referring them

severally to their true place in the universal system, of understanding their

respective values, and determining their mutual dependence"(38). Newman is

saying quite directly that in order to understand something, it must be looked

at as one component of a universal picture. He is saying that when something is

closely examined, there are no guidelines or basis for comparison, but when it

is looked at universally, it is easier to see relationships and similarities

making innovations more attainable. For example, the mathematical operations of

algebra fulfill many practical needs in science. The ability to find values for

unknown variables within sets of equations is a tool that science heavily relies

on. The reason algebra is so conveniently practical in relation to science is

because it was developed as a tool for science. The tools of algebra would not

be present if Diophantus, the developer of algebra, had not been aware of the

overall conditions his mathematical system needed to fulfill. Algebra serves

society through science and its accomplishments. From building a nuclear

reactor to altering chromosomes in a person's genetic makeup, every scientific

field originates back to the basic rules of algebra. All of the groundbreaking

advancements in society through science are functions of this mathematical tool

developed to aid and expand science.

When the students have acquired a liberal arts education, a freedom to

explore new ideas and concepts comes with it. Studying under one subject

restricts students to rules and regulations held within the field, which

sometimes act as barriers to the students keeping them from developing

unconventional or abstract ideas. Newman uses a metaphor to explain this

concept of freedom: Seafaring men, for example, range from one end of the earth

to the other...They sleep, and they rise up, and they find themselves now in

Europe, now is Asia; they see visions of great cities, and wild regions; they

are in the marts of commerce, or amid the islands of the South; they gaze on

Pompey's Pillar, or on the Andes; and nothing which meets them carries them

forward or backward, to any idea beyond itself. Nothing has a drift or

relation; nothing has a history or a promise. Everything stands by itself, and

comes and goes in its turn, like the shifting scenes of a show, which leave the

spectator where he was(38).

Newman is describing the lifestyle of liberal arts students in metaphorical

context symbolizing exotic places as different fields of study. He is saying

that the students can go any place that sparks curiosity without hesitation and

without limits, and that there are no barriers or restraints that confine or

restrict the students from wandering into an innovation. The students are

carried by the flow of the current and that is all. Some of the greatest

inventions have been discovered though the most abnormal experimental procedures.

The telephone was an invention that was not invented on behalf of need, but

rather a stroke of good luck combined with the innovation of a free-thinker.

While working on another invention, Alexander Graham Bell heard the vibrations

of a plucked wire running from one room to another and hypothesized that voices

could be carried by the same method. Bell created the first working telephone

just over nine months after this incident and the impact of the telephone on

society over the past 120 years is immeasurable. Others may not have indulged

in such a wild idea, but the result revolutionized communication and advanced

society to another level. The telephone made it possible to relay and

distribute knowledge and information, enjoy the sound of a loved one's far away

voice, and communicate danger in any regard. It allows us to settle disputes,

avoid misinterpretation, and keep up positive relations with leaders of other

countries. Inventions that advance society, such as this, demonstrate the value

of a liberal arts education.

A liberal arts education provides students with a strong foundation of

universal knowledge that allows them to think without barriers or restrictions.

It allows imaginative thoughts to develop freely and blossom into discoveries

and inventions which, in turn, advance society to higher levels. Society gains

control, stability, and a higher standard of living with these new inventions

and theories. It is evident that a liberal arts education is one of the most

useful tool for advancing society in a positive direction.

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