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Essay/Term paper: A liberal arts education

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Education

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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
minds.

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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