The liberal in liberal education does not refer to a political view. According to the website of Association of American Colleges and Universities, “Liberal education is a philosophy of education that empowers individuals with broad knowledge and transferable skills and a strong sense of value, ethics and civic engagement. It is characterized by challenging encounters with important issues and more of a way of studying than a specific course or field of study.”
Why do I need to take USP/Gen. Ed. courses anyway?
Why am I in College?
…because the military isn’t for me?
…because I want a good paying job?
…because I didn’t want to work full time?
…because I can’t get a good job without a four year degree?
…I DON’T KNOW!!
That is a good question that, if you haven’t already asked yourself, you should stop to take time to consider.
How is College supposed to be different from high school?
- More independence
- New experiences
- Exposure to new ideas and skills
- Transition to the “real world”
Findings from Focus Groups with Current College Students and High School Seniors (Milwaukee, Wisconsin-March 2005) from http://www.aacu.org/leap/public_opinion_research.cfm#students.
Why can't I study just what I want to?
What is the point of all these required courses outside my major?
The roots of university curricula go back through the Middle Ages to about 400 A.D. The Roman Empire was coming unglued, and a Roman proconsul named Martianus Capella confronted the problem of how to cope. With central authority becoming fragmented and invaders sweeping in, there was every likelihood that a person might find himself carried off into captivity a thousand miles from home among people who spoke a completely different language. What did you need to know to survive in such a wildly uncertain world? Capella’s answer: everything, or at least as close as you could come to it. Capella’s answer is not all that bad in today’s uncertain world because a lot of the purposes of General Education haven’t changed:
- General Education prepares you for change. There was a time where universities could go a century or more without updating their curricula – and sometimes did. We can’t do that any more. The problem Capella addressed is with us today. Chances are you won’t be carried off by the Visigoths. We call it a “corporate transfer” nowadays. You may find that the foreign language you didn’t want to learn in high school or college is spoken by your boss or your best customer tomorrow. What do you need to know to survive in such a wildly uncertain world? Capella’s answer still holds: everything, or at least as close as you can get to it.
- General Education gives you an overview of knowledge. Okay, you have to eat, sleep and get a reasonable amount of recreation. You can’t learn everything (which is not an excuse for learning nothing). But you can learn how everything is organized so that you have a reasonable idea what scientists, social scientists and people in the humanities do. You can also learn enough about these fields to have some idea how they work so that when (these days, it’s when and not if) you are thrust into the situation of having to become the group expert on some topic totally alien to you, you’ll have a good idea how to go about doing it.
- General Education gives you a basis for making informed decisions. Gilbert and Sullivan’s Modern Major General appeared on stage in the late 1800’s. At the start of the century, wars were fought with sailing ships, muskets and neat blocks of soldiers lined up on the battlefield. By the time Gilbert and Sullivan wrote, wars were fought with battleships, repeating rifles and machine guns. The Major General was amusing in 1890 but in another two decades or so people very much like him would send infantry waves against machine guns. At the Battle of the Somme in 1916 the British and French lost nearly as many men in one day as the U.S. lost in Korea, despite the fact that the U.S. Civil War had shown – fifty years earlier – how futile frontal attacks on trenches were. Still think history is irrelevant? The U.S. Air Force puts the matter bluntly: “What you don’t know won’t hurt you – it will kill you.”
- General Education lets you know what your options are. I got my first exposure to computers in the punchcard days of 1964. (For those of you who don’t remember, once upon a time computer data was stored on punched cards. You can always tell someone who remembers those days if his face turns white when you say “shuffle the deck.” This was just before I got drafted to help Hannibal attack Rome.) When my neighbors heard I was working with computers they all said, “That’s great, You can get a job as a key-punch operator.” Even with my rudimentary knowledge of computers, I wondered, “Why would any rational human being with a choice decide to be a key-punch operator?” My neighbors didn’t have a clue what computers were except that they provided a (temporarily) secure, mindless job. They had no idea that there were any other jobs in computing.
You might make a good biologist, or historian, or psychologist, or something else totally outside your present horizon. You might be very good at something you now think you hate. You’ll never know unless you get some exposure to the different branches of learning.
Why am I spending all this time and money?
Your answers may evolve over your college career. Perhaps you initially made this decision as the result of the desire of others for you to attend, maybe you did not know what to do next, maybe you wanted to get a better job, maybe you are preparing for a specific future career or maybe you just do not know right now.
Whatever your current situation, it is important for you to explore and determine why you are spending all of this time and money on yourself and your higher education.
Some things to consider:
- Do you have support?
- Do you have resistance?
- What’s best for you?
- Investing in your future
- Exposure to the new and different
- Financial assistance
- Low interest rates
- Living on your own
- Finding your passion
- Pursuing your passion
- Opportunity cost
- Time value of money
- Health insurance
- Will you be able to find a job, a better job?
- What will fulfill you?
Feel free to meet with a UARC Advisor or the Counseling Center to discuss your investment.