Harvard commenced in 1636 with virtually no money, 9 students and one underpaid professor. The sentiment of the day was that it “Probably won’t amount to much.” Yet 376 years later it is a leader in many fields. Today there are a number of young colleges/universities that see the type of education Harvard had and see the need to reestablish its model to adapt to the changes in our times, something all to many colleges/universities aren’t able to do.
Liberal Arts Education vs. Specialized Training*
American higher education has evolved through a series of phases that reflect the changing times and perceived needs of the country. The latest phase placed a heavy emphasis on specialized degree fields and very little emphasis on critical thinking skills.
In other words, the focus is on WHAT to think, not HOW to think.
Advances in technology are having an equalizing effect on specialized education, and we are entering a world where such training is often no longer the determining factor for new hires. Proficiency in problem solving, analysis, and communication are becoming more and more the skills necessary to compete.
Studying the classical liberal arts focuses more on broad knowledge, critical thinking, history and it’s repercussions and the great ideas and questions that have driven Western Civilization for two millennia. By studying the classics, they inspire deep thinking, intelligent questions and spirited debate. They require study, analysis and the ability to clearly communicate – all skills that have been, until recently, lost or pushed aside in favor of specialization.
Consider this excerpt from this article:
“We are educating people for the rest of their lives at Wellesley, not just for the work place,” said Andy Shennan, dean at Wellesley College, a women’s institution in Massachusetts.
While Dean Shennan understands parents’ concerns about large tuition bills, and what their child is receiving out of their education, he urges them to think about how quickly society and technology is changing, and the fact that it has become the norm to have multiple jobs within a lifetime.
“It is simply implausible today to give students a narrow occupational education,” Shennan said.
There will always be a need for specialization, but we must not completely reject the values of a classical liberal arts education. Instead, there must be a balance between the two, but beginning with a liberal arts education promises greater opportunity to adapt to change and excel in the specialized field.
Monticello College, such a school, has a two-fold objective – convey a Classical Liberal Arts or Leadership Education to our students and instill qualities of sound character – the kind of education that America was founded on and prospered under for the first 350 years.
The style of education we now believe to be the best is relatively abstract in societies from a history prospective. We instinctively know that a change is needed. Look into such schools as Monticello college and see the value and security this type of education can provide.
* taken from Monticello College Newsletter