Most students today appear to think that college is just a place to come after high school, get a degree and move on. Most students today are wrong.
As I walk the halls of Western, a bag with too many books thrown over my shoulder like a wounded soldier being carried from some imagined battle field, inevitably some whisper winds its way into my consciousness to damage my calm.
“Why do I have to study English? It’s got nothing to do with my degree!” or some such equivalent, generally slipping from the mouth of a person who has overspent so much on credit cards and unnecessary loans that they should run for congress.
If one truly wants to remain single minded, and never open one’s self up to becoming a more complete individual with multiple tools and critical skills, and instead have one thing that pertains to their degree constantly burned into their minds, perhaps go to a seminary and study Theology, I hear they are pretty good at that.
The history of college, especially one of the liberal arts, has always been more about expanding your base; not necessarily to just come and study a single field and then be vomited out into the workforce. If one doesn’t want to take my word for it, I would be happy to supply some credible validation.
An article entitled College of Letters & Science from Berkeley University states, “To be liberally educated is to be transformed. A liberal arts education frees your mind and helps you connect dots you never noticed before, so you can put your own field of study into a broader context. It enables you to form opinions and judgments, rather than defer to an outside authority.”
To go back a bit further, a statement from Albert Einstein goes on to back up this claim.
“The value of an education in a liberal arts college is not the learning of many facts but the training of the mind to think something that cannot be learned from textbooks,” Einstein said.
To defer back to the original quote that lit my fire, and was English specific, I have never learned more about critical thinking and analysis in my entire life than I learned in a single semester of Dana Andrew’s writing and rhetoric class. Even though, at the time, it was not something that I felt was specific to my degree, I firmly believe if I had not taken his class it would be kind of like operating on one lung. I could still survive in my field just fine, but I wouldn’t be running any marathons.
We have choices when it comes to our education. One is not lashed to a Liberal Arts college to get a degree. If one simply wants to study degree specific courses for four years, mucking through their studies, turning in half-assed work because they were told to, more pissed off then turned on about their education, and wearing all that disdain on their face as they whisper about how horrible it all is; perhaps Western just isn’t for you.
It is very important to find a motivation, to gain inspiration to learn everything that is available. If I am to be honest, my motivation turned out to be my ex-wife and my son that we had together. I am sure any reader is absolutely astonished to find out that I have been divorced after seeing my tone in this article. My motivation came from her keeping my son from me. She was, and remains, absolutely content to work part time at a minimum wage job and survive on the government and child support. It made me look at my own life and realize that I didn’t what my son to grow up only knowing that lifestyle; I wanted to offer him better. It was absolutely my driving force behind attaining knowledge everywhere I could, so that someday, I could in turn share that knowledge with him. I think it is imperative that one finds that motivation to fully embrace what a Liberal Arts education can offer. I am not saying to go get a divorce to find it, that was unique to me, I am just saying to find it somewhere. I wrote a poem a long time ago right after I realized that motivation, I think it sums it up fairly nicely. “You may not have been the bullet in the gun, but you sure as fuck were the finger on the trigger.”