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The decline of a true liberal arts education?


mamaraby
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The University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point is mostly eliminating its humanities departments - https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2018/03/13/faculty-members-wisconsin-stevens-point-react-plan-cut-13-majors

 

In what seems to me more like the technical college model (at least as I am familiar with here), the faculty that remain will teach the minimum, token courses that the non-humanities majors require. To me, it seems short sighted and signaling that we no longer value a well-rounded liberal arts education. It also worries me because my kids will likely attend college within the UW System.

 

I think technical colleges have their place and I think college costs are out of control. I empathize with those who have large amounts of college debt and that is out of proportion with future salary potential, but is this really the only solution? So, short sighted? No big deal? I’m curious what others think.

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I am kind o two minds about this sort of thing.  Maybe my biggest issue is that I don't like it that things are neither fish nor fowl.

 

I think the decline of liberal arts education among people who are supposed to be the leaders in our society is a problem.  I think the idea that we don't really value that kind of education, or really even understand what it's for, is a problem.

 

On the other hand, I also think it is normal for most people in a population to have their tertiary education as career/technically oriented.  That reflects not only the needs of the economy, but also most people's interests - many people at that level are not looking for more academic education.

 

I tend to think it's almost better if that is explicit, and I don't know that it is now - instead what I often see is people coming out with supposed university educations in engineering or nursing or whatever, but really what they have is a technical education.  Even those with degrees in the arts sometimes have a really very shallow experience, because it has been made into an adjunct to career training and they don't know the difference.

 

It's interesting that what I see in places that differentiate the post-secondary ed is that there seems to actually be greater appreciation for academic post-secondary ed, even by the many people who don't do it.  And there is also greater appreciation of technical education.  Professional ed too, though unlike here it isn't confused with the highest kind of academic achievement.

 

So - what you are describing might well be a university system that has become over-extended correcting itself - becoming what i really is, career and technical education.  If so, I think that's fine.  But I also think it would be good if that was understood, and ideally maybe there was some designation that could make this difference really clear.

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I agree with you.

 

But it seems like we (general we, maybe I mean the US in general) are confused about the value and purpose of education. Seems like not too long ago I saw an article about the superiority of a liberal arts education in terms of employability. (I'm not going to be able to look for it as I'm on my phone so no one please ask for a cite.)

 

A few weeks ago I was in a conversation with someone other moms. They were complaining about "useless" gen ed/humanities classes in college. I was shocked because they claim to be proponents of classical education. And yet they see college as career training.

 

Sorry if this is rambly. This us a topic that bothers me, maybe because I don't have STEM kids and get defensive when people tell me liberal arts are useless. (Not saying OP is telling me that.)

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I agree with you.

 

But it seems like we (general we, maybe I mean the US in general) are confused about the value and purpose of education. Seems like not too long ago I saw an article about the superiority of a liberal arts education in terms of employability. (I'm not going to be able to look for it as I'm on my phone so no one please ask for a cite.)

 

A few weeks ago I was in a conversation with someone other moms. They were complaining about "useless" gen ed/humanities classes in college. I was shocked because they claim to be proponents of classical education. And yet they see college as career training.

 

Sorry if this is rambly. This us a topic that bothers me, maybe because I don't have STEM kids and get defensive when people tell me liberal arts are useless. (Not saying OP is telling me that.)

 

 

It's almost by necessity that for many, college is career training.  People going to college are adults and mostly they need to start to be self-supporting and useful soon.  But I agree - how is it that people who supposedly support classical education don't understand the purpose and value of classes like that, even if it is not for them or their kids?

 

What I find really interesting though is the simultaneous holding of that idea while at the same time the holding up of the idea of "college" as something better than technical education.  I feel like there is a certain snob element on the one hand, while actually being very typically bourgeois or middle class on the other.  A weird combination.

 

It's always interesting to me - both of my grandfathers came from very middle class backgrounds.  On one side they were largely military, on the other farmers and shopkeepers.  No university.  But both families were pretty well educated outside of the university with regard to history and politics, one was literary and the other musical, along with their technical abilities.  But there also weren't the pretentious that come with a supposed grad level education that I see people getting very excited about now.

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I think that liberal arts education shot itself in the foot by becoming so canty and onesided.

There are not very many places where all sides of a debate are carefully considered anymore, or where the history of ideas is taught and seriously considered.  Those are foundational characteristics of liberal arts.  Just teaching facts, or, worse, a single set of opinions about facts is not really a liberal arts education.  Letting that go is not the worst thing.  Letting go what a liberal arts education should properly be, which is the teaching of facts, the history of ideas, and how to formulate and evaluate your own ideas, is the worst thing.  And that train left the station, largely, a long time ago.

 

I would have loved to have studied history when I went to college, but my parents certainly wouldn't have paid for me to attend if I wasn't going to come out with a marketable degree.  But even in freshman history it was clear to me that the profs did not understand a lot of what they were teaching when it pertained to ideals and theology and virtue.  Looking back on it, that is surprising to me.

Edited by Carol in Cal.
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I think that a true liberal arts education has been on the decline for a very long time. I went to a state university and I remember one of my application essay questions was on the value of a liberal arts education. I dutifully wrote about the importance of being well rounded and able to communitvate effectively. This was before I knew anything about classical education or the historical seven liberal arts. I majored in the humanities (religious studies and psychology) yet, I would say I received a very poor liberal arts education. Though I graduated summa cum laude, I left college ignorant of many of the basic ideas of a true liberal arts education.

 

In the same way that the term classical education is understood very differently by different homeschoolers, I think the term liberal arts education has become almost meaningless in the mainstream culture. I would like to see a return to technical colleges and trade schools for those who are interested in career training and a refocus on the purpose of education at the university level.

 

I'm taking a course on the history of progressive education right now and the state land grant universities were founded with the purpose of focusing on agriculture and mechanics in the 1800's. They're just continuing on in the utilitarian tradition they started in and it has snowballed into the utilitarian view of education that most people hold today.

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I think that liberal arts education shot itself in the foot by becoming so canty and onesided.

There are not very many places where all sides of a debate are carefully considered anymore, or where the history of ideas is taught and seriously considered. Those are foundational characteristics of liberal arts. Just teaching facts, or, worse, a single set of opinions about facts is not really a liberal arts education. Letting that go is not the worst thing. Letting what a liberal arts education should properly be, which is the teaching of facts, the history of ideas, and how to formulate and evaluate your own ideas, is the worst thing. And that train left the station, largely, a long time ago.

 

I would have loved to have studied history when I went to college, but my parents certainly wouldn't have paid for me to attend if I wasn't going to come out with a marketable degree. But even in freshman history it was clear to me that the profs did not understand a lot of what they were teaching when it pertained to ideals and theology and virtue. Looking back on it, that is surprising to me.

Your post really resonates with how I was thinking about it too.

 

I have been immensely grateful for all of those humanities courses I took staggered around my heavy science and math classes. I came out of college a deeper thinker with thicker skin. My love of my humanities classes prompted me to minor in classical studies and it was there, amongst the dusty Greek and Roman classics that I finally understood western thought and civilization. I could see how we continually repeat history, that despite our best intentions people make the same calls under the same conditions, and I could clearly see how our values erupted out of that time. It was mind shattering for me. I ended up staying in undergrad an additional year just to suck up more topics like history of medicine, political science, economics and so forth.

 

I would not at all be who I am now without that experience. It has allowed me to evaluate ideas across a long trajectory and not in the moment. I want that for my kids. It saddens me that we would truncate ones education and just create another working cog in the machine. Even our scientists need to understand humans across time at all levels. I also argue that those who focus in a humanities area also needs ample science and math to truly digest today's bend toward science. All of it is important.

Edited by nixpix5
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 I also argue that those who focus in a humanities area also needs ample science and math to truly digest today's bend toward science. All of it is important.

Yes!

 

One of the original reasons I majored in a STEM field was that I knew I would always read and think on my own, but I didn't think that I would study STEM stuff on my own.  I thought that to be really well-rounded in the end I had to major in STEM. 

 

Also, the science classes for nonmajors at my university were seriously lacking in content.  For instance, the intro to physics for nonmajors class spread 3 weeks worth of material over a 10 week quarter, and was considered a breadth requirement for humanities majors.  It was barely a taste of a taste of physics, and it counted as an entire course.  It was quite ridiculous.

Edited by Carol in Cal.
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Sorry if this is rambly. This us a topic that bothers me, maybe because I don't have STEM kids and get defensive when people tell me liberal arts are useless. (Not saying OP is telling me that.)

Oh, I definitely agree with you here and I agree that it does seem to be a change in how we view the fundamental question of what it means to be educated.

 

In the past, the answer was that there was value in educating everyone, but it seems to me that the answer now is that a well rounded liberal arts education is reserved for those who can afford it and have the financial means necessary. Those without that means just need job skills and so let’s cut anything that doesn’t facilitate that goal.

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Oh, I definitely agree with you here and I agree that it does seem to be a change in how we view the fundamental question of what it means to be educated.

 

In the past, the answer was that there was value in educating everyone, but it seems to me that the answer now is that a well rounded liberal arts education is reserved for those who can afford it and have the financial means necessary. Those without that means just need job skills and so let’s cut anything that doesn’t facilitate that goal.

I think this depends on how we define terms, but it seems like it's impossible to educate everyone now (in the classical sense) because there is no agreement on what the ideal man is. What is virtue? How can we educate to form the soul to an ideal type or to perceive truth when nobody agrees on what that is anymore?

 

Obviously, I'm coming at this from a Christian, classical perspective but I think that serves to illustrate my point, because somebody else's conception of a well rounded liberal arts education might be totally different. In a society as fragmented as ours, I don't know how you give everyone a (historical) liberal arts education. All that can be agreed upon is the need for a career that will provide for a family.

 

ETA of course I wish that a liberal arts education was available to all and I certainly see value in education for all; I just want to know who gets to decide what that education is.

Edited by WoolC
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A few weeks ago I was in a conversation with someone other moms. They were complaining about "useless" gen ed/humanities classes in college. I was shocked because they claim to be proponents of classical education. And yet they see college as career training.

The cost of college here is high and four year graduation rate isn’t high. For those of us used to a Europe style of college where law and medicine are undergraduate degrees instead of postgrad, and people tend to graduate on time,early high school years are the broad based years.

 

I get to specialize in 11th grade on the Cambridge exams path so it was 2 languages and three to four relevant core subjects. IB diploma program is similar in narrowing down of subjects.

 

If college is free like Germany then people won’t be so stressed about graduating in four years because you only lose potential pay by graduating late but not having to pay university tuition on top of that. I graduated late as I was sick final year. The cost of that one year was around $8k (including room and board) and a potential income loss of $26k annual back in early 90s. My brother is 9 years younger so my parents didn’t have a problem paying the extra year of engineering school costs. One of my nephews recently graduated and his tuition cost around $9k and his only sibling is entering university two years later. So my cousin won’t have a problem financially if my nephew had taken five years to graduate.

 

For my engineering degree, I had economics, accounting, sociology, law as the compulsory humanities subject per year. It is embedded into the rigid scope and sequence of engineering school and almost all graduated in 4 years. My husband had to study like crazy for those to maintain his GPA for scholarship purpose and later for postgraduate application. My brother failed his humanities and found an Australian university that does not need humanities to get his bachelors in mechanical engineering. My undergrad GPA did close quite a few doors which luckily did not jeopardize my earning potential but to do postgrad in the US, I would either have to get another bachelors or look for a postgrad that doesn’t mind a lower undergrad GPA and takes into account I already have two postgraduate (non-US) degrees.

 

My oldest might be interested in Law and he is already worried about high school GPA. He is going to be worried about college GPA for postgraduate for sure. That’s why Canadian and German universities are so tempting for us. My DS12 would likely thrive in a German Polytechnic or any technical university with a co-op program. He would likely be okay at somewhere like Calpoly SLO or U of Waterloo for engineering.

 

My husband is learning philosophy now at leisure. We hang out at Stanford book store when our kids have activities at the campus. My husband would have failed the humanities courses at Stanford going by the used textbooks we browsed through. He might have failed college chemistry too actually if it was compulsory for his electrical engineering major.

 

What would be nice is if my husband had access to a liberal arts education that I had in elementary school at a catholic convent school. I had German and Italian nuns for teachers. That was a no stress learn all you want time. By the time high school comes around, college entrance stakes are high and he needed that purely academic scholarship since he doesn’t have any other accomplishments to get scholarships.

 

My parents annual income was doubled that of my in-laws. My childhood home was also cheaper and smaller. I have one sibling which is nine years younger. My husband has two siblings which are two and five years older. My dad has a pension. Dispensable income is much higher for my parents than my in-laws. The amount of money and time spent on my education is much higher including lining up to get priority entrance into decent preschool and elementary school. I had outside art, music, ballet, swim, phonics class paid by my parents while my husband had nothing outside of school. I could afford to be jobless after college graduation because my parents could bankroll my expenses but my husband can’t. Many of my cousins are self employed and could literally create a job opening for me or pull strings among their social circles. My husband doesn’t have that fallback option.

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I don't see how we can have a democracy that actually functions without having a lot of liberal arts education.

 

There are responsibilities as well as rights inherent in having a free and democratic society.  These must be understood and embraced and nurtured, or it will all fall apart.  (As I think is happening right now.)

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Yes!

 

One of the original reasons I majored in a STEM field was that I knew I would always read and think on my own, but I didn't think that I would study STEM stuff on my own. I thought that to be really well-rounded in the end I had to major in STEM.

 

Also, the science classes for nonmajors at my university were seriously lacking in content. For instance, the intro to physics for nonmajors class spread 3 weeks worth of material over a 10 week quarter, and was considered a breadth requirement for humanities majors. It was barely a taste of a taste of physics, and it counted as an entire course. It was quite ridiculous.

This. My son was a STEM major, but also chose to be part of the honors college at his university. They had to take five upper level english and history classes their first two years and then five upper level electives the last two (with at least one humanities, social science, and science each) and fulfill the BA foreign language requirement even if getting a BS.

 

So the STEM students were taking rigorous STEM classes at the same time as upper level honors non-STEM courses virtually every term. While the humanities major only had to take one STEM class all four years and didn’t have to fulfill the math/science requirement for a BS. And the STEM electives in the honors college were not nearly as rigorous as the regular intro major science courses.

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I value a well-rounded high school education, but think kids should be able to take the classes they are interested in at college without being required to take a prescribed slate of general classes. (Such that I would be labeled as someone who wants colleges to be technical/career training.) One of the benefits of college, I tell my kids, is they don't have to take all those classes that don't interest them; they can concentrate on stuff they like.

 

I'm finding that many of the colleges my dd is looking at have those general (filler) classes required, though. It certainly would turn me (an engineer by schooling) off attending there.

 

If I want to take Religious Studies or Women's Issues or two classes in Multi Cultural whatever, then great. But requiring some 30-60 credits in several categories of classes that are supposed to give someone a liberal arts education is stupid, IMO. At least at a lot of places I've looked at.

 

The strange thing is, I would say I am probably one of those 'classical mom's' you referred to. I guess I don't see college as the place for forcing kids to take classes on topics they don't care about. (That's what (free / mandatory) high school is for.)

 

But, DH and I are also life-long learners, so I believe you can pick up that well-roundedness on the side.

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Oh, I definitely agree with you here and I agree that it does seem to be a change in how we view the fundamental question of what it means to be educated.

 

In the past, the answer was that there was value in educating everyone, but it seems to me that the answer now is that a well rounded liberal arts education is reserved for those who can afford it and have the financial means necessary. Those without that means just need job skills and so let’s cut anything that doesn’t facilitate that goal.

 

There are still affordable universities where you can obtain a liberal arts education, so it is possible, but it's getting more difficult as the humanities especially seem to be top of the chopping block when budget issues arise. I have a lot of thoughts of the issue of "job skills" vs skills that are transferable to many jobs, but I'm on my way to my internship. Obviously, I'm pro- liberal arts, pro- humanities education. Not everyone can be a nurse or wants to work in a STEM field. 

 

I believe we also have an upcoming generation that values different things than us of the gen x or boomer generation. Financial success isn't being defined the same as we did, so perhaps there is room for a regeneration of the liberal arts. 

 

I'll try to add more when I get home this evening. 

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There are still affordable universities where you can obtain a liberal arts education, so it is possible, but it's getting more difficult as the humanities especially seem to be top of the chopping block when budget issues arise. I have a lot of thoughts of the issue of "job skills" vs skills that are transferable to many jobs, but I'm on my way to my internship. Obviously, I'm pro- liberal arts, pro- humanities education. Not everyone can be a nurse or wants to work in a STEM field.

 

I believe we also have an upcoming generation that values different things than us of the gen x or boomer generation. Financial success isn't being defined the same as we did, so perhaps there is room for a regeneration of the liberal arts.

 

I'll try to add more when I get home this evening.

I agree. I can’t speak for every state, but at least for the state in question (Wisconsin), the answer for where to get that affordable liberal arts education was that the state university was the place to do that.

 

Obviously, there are other factors at play for why that maybe isn’t the case so much these days. Wisconsin in particular has educational funding issues at all levels - some of which have been self-inflicted and that makes the specifics slightly more complex and yet those same underlying issues/attitudes toward funding are, imo, underpinning the chosen solution.

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I think when the economy gets tighter it be comes much harder to afford a liberal arts education. They don't lead directly to jobs and this is impractical to most who will have high student loans to worry about. So, if students don't want them colleges will cut them. Also, our society values STEM more nowadays.

 

It is sad because a liberal arts education teaches people to see the big picture and to think and communicate.

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I personally felt like college for the first two years was a rehashing of high school.  I felt it was a waste of time and money (I'm still paying for my college and not particularly amused about having to spend money on courses such as physical education and intro to art when I did several of those types of things in high school already).  And I majored in Psychology.  So for someone majoring in a more technical field, yeah I think it's ok if it's minimal. 

 

And I think almost colleges trained people to be college professors.  No joke.  As a psych major the main focus was research.  As if I'd go on to be a college professor doing research.  There are very few people who actually do.  Not sure how practical that was.  Not that it hurt me exactly.  Just as a person without much money it would have been better to focus on skills for more likely job scenarios.  (I'm speaking in past tense here because I can't say for sure what it is exactly like now.) 

 

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I think there are two issues here that may be mixed up.

The first is the value of humanities education and degrees. I don't think anybody disputes that.

The other is the general education requirement that allocates a quarter to a third of the credit hours to subjects outside the student's field of study. I consider this unnecessary. I come from a culture where college is used to specialize in a field of high interest and where the general education is completed with 12th grade. 

What is the point in making college students take two semesters of a foreign language? That is too little too late - it would be way more efficient to teach them foreign languages during K-12. I see the gen ed requirement used as a way to remedy a substandard K-12 education. This should not be pushed into college.

 

Students have free electives in each degree program. The student should be allowed to use the free electives for whatever pursuits he wants. But I do not see an advantage in mandating a large number of gen ed courses which inevitably means fewer courses and a less rigorous education in the student's major area. To me, that is not a sensible way of allocating resources.  Twelve years of gen ed should suffice.

 

I am also questioning the asymmetry of the requirements. If science majors are required to spend 21 credit hours on humanities to get their BS, why are humanities majors only required to spend 12 hours on math and science for their BA?

Edited by regentrude
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What is the point in making college students take two semesters of a foreign language? That is too little too late - it would be way more efficient to teach them foreign languages during K-12. I see the gen ed requirement used as a way to remedy a substandard K-12 education. This should not be pushed into college.

 

 

In my major field, it was considered important to be able to read scientific papers in certain foreign languages.  So PhD candidates had to pass a proficiency test in one of two foreign languages to get their degree awarded.  There was no FL requirement on undergrad or masters' candidates.

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In my major field, it was considered important to be able to read scientific papers in certain foreign languages.  So PhD candidates had to pass a proficiency test in one of two foreign languages to get their degree awarded.  There was no FL requirement on undergrad or masters' candidates.

 

That's a completely different thing. Sure, a medieval history major for example should be proficient in several languages in order to read original documents. That pertains directly to their degree. And requiring proficiency is different, too.

 

But making every undergrad jump through the hoop of taking TWO semesters is  pointless, because it takes many years to develop useful language skills. 5th grade would have been the time to start this. 

 

ETA: I am curious: which science nowadays publishes the major international journals in a different language than English? there was a time when German was very useful for reading physics papers, but now those journals are largely obsolete.

Edited by regentrude
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I don't see how we can have a democracy that actually functions without having a lot of liberal arts education.

 

There are responsibilities as well as rights inherent in having a free and democratic society.  These must be understood and embraced and nurtured, or it will all fall apart.  (As I think is happening right now.)

 

From my friends with kids currently in public high school, the UC a-g history/social science requirements are not done well either. Those subjects are subjects that provoke multi facet thinking and discussions. My husband is reading through the US citizenship test prep books and he might ironically be better at US history than the local high school kids in APUSH. I am actually in favor of something like compulsory participation in model UN during school time in high school.

 

“History / social science ("a")

 

Two units (equivalent to two years or four semesters) of history / social science required, including:

 

One year of world history, cultures and historical geography, and

One year of U.S. history, or one-half year of U.S history and one-half year of civics or American governmentâ€

 

I'm finding that many of the colleges my dd is looking at have those general (filler) classes required, though. It certainly would turn me (an engineer by schooling) off attending there.

 

I guess I don't see college as the place for forcing kids to take classes on topics they don't care about. (That's what (free / mandatory) high school is for.)

But, DH and I are also life-long learners, so I believe you can pick up that well-roundedness on the side.

I don’t have a problem with a humanities per year requirement in college for stem majors as long as I have plenty to pick from so I could pick what I like the most. For humanities that are compulsory, if they are not included in the GPA, that would provide a less stressful learning environment. My husband enjoyed his german classes which we took together in college as a non credit course. It was just a pass/fail course and has no effect on GPA. If he could take music appreciation or philosophy as a pass/fail course, he would probably have signed up.

 

There is an engineering school that requires a chemistry module/course for computer engineering majors. My kids are thinking of using the AP Chemistry exam score for credit if applying there. My kids like chemistry but not so much that they want to do chemistry again in college.

 

I am an engineering graduate too and I like choices and I am pro lifelong learning either through the library and/or MOOCs. My dad who is ESL is still learning English and he graduated from Teachers College in the 1960s as a second language teacher.

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I value a well-rounded high school education, but think kids should be able to take the classes they are interested in at college without being required to take a prescribed slate of general classes. (Such that I would be labeled as someone who wants colleges to be technical/career training.) One of the benefits of college, I tell my kids, is they don't have to take all those classes that don't interest them; they can concentrate on stuff they like.

 

I'm finding that many of the colleges my dd is looking at have those general (filler) classes required, though. It certainly would turn me (an engineer by schooling) off attending there.

 

If I want to take Religious Studies or Women's Issues or two classes in Multi Cultural whatever, then great. But requiring some 30-60 credits in several categories of classes that are supposed to give someone a liberal arts education is stupid, IMO. At least at a lot of places I've looked at.

 

The strange thing is, I would say I am probably one of those 'classical mom's' you referred to. I guess I don't see college as the place for forcing kids to take classes on topics they don't care about. (That's what (free / mandatory) high school is for.)

 

But, DH and I are also life-long learners, so I believe you can pick up that well-roundedness on the side.

I am so conflicted on this issue. On the one hand I completely agree with you, especially since a lot of those required courses seem to me fluff. On the other hand, I would appreciate a Great Books type of approach stretched out (say 4 courses) so we could provide that “education.†I think if we had more specialized high schools with tracking, we could have college prep schools that cover greats books in high school and those kids could move on to the university and specialize, but given no real tracking (no trade school type high schools for those not interested in higher learning), I don’t see out schools doing justice to “liberal arts.†I don’t believe there is education without literature. I think reading is the basis of all. I am just not sure how or when (college versus high school) we could get these kids to read and think. And I am not sure if high school kids are always mature enough for heavier books.

Now I am all for making sure a bunch of general ed requirements (history, bio and Chem...), which often tend to be just Intro level courses be completed in high school.

In short my thinking is very blurry on this subject.

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My husband double majored in physics and mathematics.  He also was part of the very humanities centered honors program.  It was a very full schedule that didn't really leave room for electives, and honestly, when he got to graduate school, he was not terribly well prepared in his majors.  However, in his career, he's been pretty unique almost everywhere he's gone that he is a good writer and able to write at length, good quality papers quite quickly.  He's frequently working with people who are barely literate (and I'm referring not to the folks from other countries, who are usually literate in three or four languages), and who cannot write a sentence.  He says he really benefited from the honors college requirements.

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But making every undergrad jump through the hoop of taking TWO semesters is  pointless, because it takes many years to develop useful language skills. 5th grade would have been the time to start this. 

 

My point is that even in the 70s this was not required at all universities.

And, two semesters is equivalent to two years of high school FL.  So that's enough to get the grammar and a little vocab--not fluency, but enough to start reading a bit.

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I went to a very well respected liberal arts college that remains focused on the liberal arts and a well rounded education. It was such a broadening experience and definitely provides the background for someone to become an informed citizen as well as the flexibility to do many jobs (except for technical ones). The key factor though was that it wasn't a "core courses" curriculum grafted onto one's major. There were distribution requirements rather than core classes that everyone had to take with the philosophy being that all their courses were equal in training students how to think. So it was something like: you had to take two courses in the humanities, two in science and math, two in non Eurocentric studies, and two in some other category that I can't think of at the moment. In this way, it was possible for individualized studies and dabbling in areas that were not your major. The vast majority of graduates are employed upon graduation or go on to graduate school. A common theme I see in the profiles of the successful graduates in the alumni magazine is that they get jobs as innovators in largish corporations (LEGO, PIXAR etc.). I of course, did not go that route...

Edited by Kalmia
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I went to a very well respected liberal arts college that remains focused on the liberal arts and a well rounded education. It was such a broadening experience and definitely provides the background for someone to become an informed citizen as well as the flexibility to do many jobs (except for technical ones). The key factor though was that it wasn't a "core courses" curriculum grafted onto one's major. There were distribution requirements rather than core classes that everyone had to take with the philosophy being that all their courses were equal in training students how to think. So it was something like: you had to take two courses in the humanities, two in science and math, two in non Eurocentric studies, and two in some other category that I can't think of at the moment. In this way, it was possible for individualized studies and dabbling in areas that were not your major. The vast majority of graduates are employed upon graduation or go on to graduate school. A common theme I see in the profiles of the successful graduates in the alumni magazine is that they get jobs as innovators in largish corporations (LEGO, PIXAR etc.). I of course, did not go that route...

 

Isn't that how most colleges do it though?  They don't require specific core courses, but rather you choose from core areas.  It may end up that, for example, many engineering majors stick to the basics in other areas, but not so much that they are required to.

I tried to choose courses that weren't just level 100 intro courses because I found those courses to be insanely boring.  But some people would prefer to not have to take some courses at all so they opt for the intro courses. 

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Isn't that how most colleges do it though?  They don't require specific core courses, but rather you choose from core areas.  It may end up that, for example, many engineering majors stick to the basics in other areas, but not so much that they are required to.

I tried to choose courses that weren't just level 100 intro courses because I found those courses to be insanely boring.  But some people would prefer to not have to take some courses at all so they opt for the intro courses. 

 

I think most liberal arts colleges, though the one I picked was more flexible than the others I applied to. I didn't have to take Freshman Comp or Phys Ed. or any math for example which was absolutely not the case in the seven other colleges I applied to. I think many other colleges have a set of particular "core courses" that everyone takes. Many colleges seem to have electives as well which is very freeing but may be limited in number. Also I went to college in the late 80s and early 90s. Things may have gotten a lot more flexible than they were back then.

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I love the idea of giving all my children a great liberal arts education but there is that whole money thing. They are completely dependent on scholarships to get an education at all. If they mess up that's it. Their education days are over. Which means in state for a few of them which, having spoken with students and retired teachers, means not a great liberal arts education regardless what they major in. So I want them to have a great education but we will probably have to find another way to get it and focus on economic and career advantage for the paid classes. It's a matter of survival, unless someone wants to gift us with 40k a year for the next ten years. :)

 

I do think it's sad that we can't give our children a great liberal arts education in the secondary years. I certainly have failed my children in many ways in that regards but their education was so much better than mine it's crazy and the public school option wasn't better where I live. In fact our university does just rehash high school again the first few years because the majority of students come ill prepared for even the begining level of college work.

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I love the idea of giving all my children a great liberal arts education but there is that whole money thing. They are completely dependent on scholarships to get an education at all. If they mess up that's it. Their education days are over. Which means in state for a few of them which, having spoken with students and retired teachers, means not a great liberal arts education regardless what they major in. So I want them to have a great education but we will probably have to find another way to get it and focus on economic and career advantage for the paid classes. It's a matter of survival, unless someone wants to gift us with 40k a year for the next ten years. :)

 

I do think it's sad that we can't give our children a great liberal arts education in the secondary years. I certainly have failed my children in many ways in that regards but their education was so much better than mine it's crazy and the public school option wasn't better where I live. In fact our university does just rehash high school again the first few years because the majority of students come ill prepared for even the begining level of college work.

 

Wait what?  I went to college and never received any scholarships  Granted, it was expensive, but I didn't have help from anyone either.  So it IS possible.

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Read the whole thing , Sparkly. My children can go to the in state university but they won't get much of a liberal arts education therefore to do so we must leave state unless they want to rehash high school like you said you did and why would they want to do that rather than pursue something career worthy.

 

Our liberal arts education (which doesn't equal college) will probably come from elsewhere.

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Oh, I definitely agree with you here and I agree that it does seem to be a change in how we view the fundamental question of what it means to be educated.

 

In the past, the answer was that there was value in educating everyone, but it seems to me that the answer now is that a well rounded liberal arts education is reserved for those who can afford it and have the financial means necessary. Those without that means just need job skills and so let’s cut anything that doesn’t facilitate that goal.

 

I think to some extent it does come down to money now, especially in the US.  And I think secondary school should give everyone the opportunity to have a good education - one that puts them in a very big room, as CM might say.

 

But I think part of the problem has come to be because of this idea that university ed should be available to all.  I think not everyone has even the interest in studying the LA at that level, and not necessarily the ability either.  It seems like in trying to say it should be open to anyone with the interest and ability regardless of their wealth, we've actually tried to say just open to all.

 

I man, I also think that most people benefit and are enriched by musical training.  I think schools should give us that opportunity.  I think people who don't study music in university can still learn it, play music, and so on after they start working.  Or they might actually work in music.  But only a certain number will be the ones who go on to study it in university, much less at a higher level.

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I love the idea of giving all my children a great liberal arts education but there is that whole money thing. They are completely dependent on scholarships to get an education at all. If they mess up that's it. Their education days are over

 

No. Their education days are not over. If they had a good base in highschool, they will be positioned to be lifelong learners. Not all education comes from colleges. I have learned a lot since leaving university, especially in the humanities, and continue to learn.

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No. Their education days are not over. If they had a good base in highschool, they will be positioned to be lifelong learners. Not all education comes from colleges. I have learned a lot since leaving university, especially in the humanities, and continue to learn.

You are absolutly correct. Bad phrasing and something I argued against in the past on this board. :) I just meant to say they would have to drop college and work at most likely fairly low skilled labor or take up a trade. They could even go back later in life at a local university and it would probably be cheaper due to not being dependents.

 

My main point is that money is a huge factor and having the ability to sit around taking classes rather than have a major focus on providing for oneself isn't something the majority of Americans can afford.

 

I completely agreed with your points though on primary and secondary education. If they had a good education when younger they could still be life long learners and thinkers while focusing on a career and providing for themselves.

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The jobs market is changing, and so education needs to be flexible to meet that need. Also, there are just so many more ways to learn and broaden ones mind. The idea of a professor at a university being the only one with the ability to educate someone is not true anymore.

 

This semester, my business instructor has had a very narrow focus as she can’t seem to make it through a class without bashing the current admin. in Washington, D.C., and all things consevative and capitalistic.

 

My ds21’s ethics instructor seemed determinded to blame Christians for environmental damage, and has now pivoted to convincing everyone to be vegan. It’s a required class for his engineering transfer.

 

So, as far as I’m concerned, a great, broad liberal arts education has died already.

Exactly the point I made upthread.  Liberal arts education killed itself long since.

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This is a topic I've been thinking about a lot lately. Dd 14 is doing a Great Books sequence in high school because I'm not certain that she will continue studying humanities in college and I want to ensure she gets it at some point.

 

I think that the goals of a true liberal arts education: to seek truth, goodness, and beauty through our studies as a life-long pursuit, to employ reason and logic in our thought processes, to be able to communicate articulately and persuasively, to be able to discuss and debate, to question the validity of our own thinking, to even be happy to find the flaws in our own knowledge, to find wonder in and truly be curious about the world, to know our own history and feel a part of and be able to articulate the human struggle... these goals are worth pursuing.

 

The question becomes: Who should be pursuing this type of education? Just the elite and those who may be creating policy? Just those who feel drawn to the humanities? Should all college students have to devote part of their training to these pursuits? All high school students? What do we think of a citizen who is technically trained to a high level for a specific career, but has no knowledge of The Great Conversation, and has not contemplated the human condition or understand how we got here? A democracy, after all, might be filled with such citizens, and their votes determine the course of our future.

 

I don't really have answers to these questions, and I wasn't even educated this way myself (although I'm trying to slowly remedy that), but I wrestle with them often. Sometimes when I am on Facebook, I can't help but wonder how different our daily discourse might be if the majority of the people interacting there had a true liberal arts education.

Edited by lovelearnandlive
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I think that the reduction of liberal arts education in many colleges today should not really be viewed as a decline in liberal arts education.  Until the 1960s, less than 10% of the US population received college degrees.  A small portion of the US population was receiving a collegiate liberal arts education.  

 

I had an aunt who went to trade school to become a bookkeeper and another who went to trade school to become a nurse.  Today, they would be likely to go to a university and major in accounting or nursing.  In the 1950's to stay locally, they had the option of attending the local trade school or a satellite branch of the state university.  Today, the trade school is closed and the satellite branch of the university is now its own university system.  They did not receive a liberal arts education.  

 

I think the issue is much more of moving trade and professional education into the university system (which was designed for liberal arts education) than a reduction in liberal arts education.

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This semester, my business instructor has had a very narrow focus as she can’t seem to make it through a class without bashing the current admin. in Washington, D.C., and all things consevative and capitalistic.

My friend’s oldest daughter’s public middle school (Hayward/Oakland) had such extreme teachers that her husband decided to move their entire family back to Europe.

 

Besides the recent school walkout, there were also two school walkouts last year for different issues and kids do feel obliged to walkout whether or not they agree. My friend’s kids who are feeling ambivalent about the previous walkouts felt that they didn’t have a choice of sitting it out as they would be targeted and mocked by schoolmates.

 

I have friends in Asia who are thinking of sending their kids to U.K. or US universities and they think US universities might be too liberal so they are aiming for Oxbridge.

 

ETA:

K-12th public education is free and a good quality public education should be able to cultivate thinking adults. My home country’s education system is sometimes thought of as brainwashing. There are similarities here too in public schools.

Edited by Arcadia
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It is ironic that I just had a conversation with my DD who is currently job searching and soon graduating with a double major in physics and an interdisciplinary liberal arts major at a college that reserves one third of credits for a strong liberal arts core curriculum. She specifically chose this because she loves humanities and greatly enjoyed her coursework. But now in hindsight feels that this extra skill set does not give her any advantage and regrets that she didn't acquire a more practical second major. She says she wishes somebody had told her in her first year only to do this if she is interested in humanities grad school, and she feels it was a wasted effort.

 

So much for "high demand" for people with liberal arts education. And she has a freaking science major on top of it.

 

 

Edited by regentrude
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My goal is to give my kids the good well rounded liberal arts education so that they don’t have to worry so much about this question. Should they decide on a trade or skilled work, they will have the foundation to be thinking, curious, well reasoned adults interested in a variety of subjects. It think we owe this to all our high school students (whether they think they “need†it or not). I am very uncomfortable with the idea of “tracking†high schoolers as if those who decide to go into a trade don’t need a rich, rigorous education. I feel we are already informally doing this with all of the focus on STEM! Skills! Technology! Rah rah.

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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 I am very uncomfortable with the idea of “tracking†high schoolers as if those who decide to go into a trade don’t need a rich, rigorous education. I feel we are already informally doing this with all of the focus on STEM! Skills! Technology! Rah rah.

 

The problem with the lack of tracking is that coursework without differentiation has to cater to the lowest common denominator and students who would be capable of more challenging academics are not receiving an appropriate education. Ask me why I homeschool.

 

Tracking students by ability and performance allows more student to learn at an appropriate pace and level.

There need to be opportunities for late bloomers  to switch tracks, but I find that tracking produces far superior outcomes than this one-size-fits-all education we have in the US. Back home, tracking begins in 5th grade. Where learning stops here and kids are put into a holding pattern in middle school to wait out puberty, there the education becomes more challenging for those who are capable.

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Tracking students by ability and performance allows more student to learn at an appropriate pace and level.

 

 

I agree.

 

Tracking doesn't have to mean that lower tracked students are never exposed to the humanities. Geezle did a unit on Romeo and Juliet last year in his Applied Skills class. Obviously they didn't read the text, but they did read a graphic novel, watch a movie version, discuss, etc. It was a good experience for him. He even told me about the differences between Gnomeo and Juliet and the original. This is an extreme example, but if special ed teachers can do some adapting, I'm sure that regular ed teachers can make at least some classics accessible too. The only caveat is that Geezle's classmates generally enjoy school and are enthusiastic about new experiences if they're not too frustrating. That may not hold with more typical teens.

 

Edited by chiguirre
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Tracking doesn't have to mean that lower tracked students are never exposed to the humanities.

 

Of course not! Why would one even think that?

Of course they study literature and history in the non-college-track school, but the literature selections are geared towards the students' reading abilities, the writing assignments require lower levels of synthesizing and analyzing, etc.

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Haven't read through the thread yet, but wanted to share two links I sent to my dh recently. I value a liberal arts education and don't like how college has become a place for job training. I believe that someone with a well rounded education who also has a good work ethic can be very valuable to a company in many, many different positions. If I had a child who knew they wanted to be an engineer or doctor or had a passion for a specific career, I would still hope they would attend an institution where they could take classes in the humanities. People change their minds. People don't get into med school or law school. There are no guarantees.

 

http://www.businessinsider.com/mark-cuban-liberal-arts-is-the-future-2017-2

https://www.cnbc.com/2017/04/21/these-college-majors-are-the-most-robot-resistant.html

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It is ironic that I just had a conversation with my DD who is currently job searching and soon graduating with a double major in physics and an interdisciplinary liberal arts major at a college that reserves one third of credits for a strong liberal arts core curriculum. She specifically chose this because she loves humanities and greatly enjoyed her coursework. But now in hindsight feels that this extra skill set does not give her any advantage and regrets that she didn't acquire a more practical second major. She says she wishes somebody had told her in her first year only to do this if she is interested in humanities grad school, and she feels it was a wasted effort.

 

So much for "high demand" for people with liberal arts education. And she has a freaking science major on top of it.

Even way back when I graduated college as an undergrad liberal arts were not worth much in the job market which was why I focused on STEM and a social science and only minored in a liberal arts area. I thought of triple majoring and turning my minor into a 3rd bachelor's but it would have been more time with no real payout.

 

Hopefully as she grows and works she will see how much better her overall reasoning skills are. She will have a wider scope at which to look at those around her and the progression of mankind. Once she gets experience under her belt and has more employability footing she may realize just how valuable her decision was.

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Hopefully as she grows and works she will see how much better her overall reasoning skills are.

 

I am not convinced by the bolded. I am surrounded by physicists with outstanding reasoning skills, completely without additional humanities degrees.

Edited by regentrude
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My goal is to give my kids the good well rounded liberal arts education so that they don’t have to worry so much about this question. Should they decide on a trade or skilled work, they will have the foundation to be thinking, curious, well reasoned adults interested in a variety of subjects. It think we owe this to all our high school students (whether they think they “need†it or not). I am very uncomfortable with the idea of “tracking†high schoolers as if those who decide to go into a trade don’t need a rich, rigorous education. I feel we are already informally doing this with all of the focus on STEM! Skills! Technology! Rah rah.

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

 

I think you are right that kids in a stream like trades should also have access to LA.

 

But my observation is that in countries which use that system, kids from other streams than academic do seem to have those opportunities, as well as actually getting a good technical education.  

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It is ironic that I just had a conversation with my DD who is currently job searching and soon graduating with a double major in physics and an interdisciplinary liberal arts major at a college that reserves one third of credits for a strong liberal arts core curriculum. She specifically chose this because she loves humanities and greatly enjoyed her coursework. But now in hindsight feels that this extra skill set does not give her any advantage and regrets that she didn't acquire a more practical second major. She says she wishes somebody had told her in her first year only to do this if she is interested in humanities grad school, and she feels it was a wasted effort.

 

So much for "high demand" for people with liberal arts education. And she has a freaking science major on top of it.

 

She might see the benefit of it more later on.  As far as actually getting a job, unfortunately it often isn't something where employers actually know enough to realize that it's useful. 

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Even way back when I graduated college as an undergrad liberal arts were not worth much in the job market which was why I focused on STEM and a social science and only minored in a liberal arts area. I thought of triple majoring and turning my minor into a 3rd bachelor's but it would have been more time with no real payout.

 

Hopefully as she grows and works she will see how much better her overall reasoning skills are. She will have a wider scope at which to look at those around her and the progression of mankind. Once she gets experience under her belt and has more employability footing she may realize just how valuable her decision was.

Well, and also, a BS in physics is not as much a terminal degree as, say, a BS in engineering.

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