Today I jumped on Twitter for the first time in forever (my apologies, by the way, to everyone who was trying to interact with me on Twitter for the last year…). I found the #AnnoyTheDriveThruWindowGuy feed and it took all of 30 seconds to find something that miffed me enough to prompt a blog post. This blog post.
Ask him how much he paid for his liberal arts degree.#AnnoyTheDriveThruWindowGuy -@StopEatingBees
“So how’s that liberal arts degree working out for ya”#AnnoyTheDriveThruWindowGuy -@SarahHSandiers
This summer I landed a dream job. It’s exactly the job I wanted, pays exceptionally well, and it’s with one of the most prestigious companies in the field. What’s more, I was hired instead of my competition, all of whom spent four years getting a degree in this one particular field. If you didn’t already know, I’m but a lowly, unintelligent a liberal arts student. And before you dismiss my story, know that my situation is not at all unique.
So, what is liberal arts? And how are us students prepared for the working world? At my school, liberal arts classes include humanities, theology, philosophy, math/science, fine arts, Latin, trivium, and leadership. Let me break this down. I’ll list each class type, and follow it up with an explanation of what it is, and then explain how it’s not a massive waste of time. Bare with me :)
- We start with the history and literature of ancient Greece and Rome, where the greatest writers, philosophers, and theologians originated. After reading Plato, Dante, St. Augustine, and the like, we move on to the Medieval and Renaissance eras, and keep going all the way up to post-modernism.
- Firstly, we don’t read textbooks. We read original works that survived hundreds of years. That means we get to form original thoughts about what we read, instead of memorize someone else’s (probably biased) interpretation. We then take our thoughts to the classroom, and learn to not only hold an intelligent conversation with our peers, but also think critically in the meantime, and consider the legitimacy of someone else’s opinion without immediately having to agree or disagree with it. Plus, we develop a very well-rounded world view and understanding of how humanity thinks, acts, and functions.
- Since I go to a Catholic school, we read books like The Confessions, Scripture, and Compendium Theologiae (my favorite!). We learn to interpret Scripture, what the Church teaches, why, and… yes, whether or not we agree with it.
- As far as the working world goes, since these students have spent so much time forming their moral compass, making ethical decisions and acting on a strong work ethic will be at the top of their priorities. This isn’t to say that other people are unethical or lazy, because I don’t believe that, but the probability of one of these students being unethical or lazy is extremely low.
- This is where we practice logic. From Aristotle’s Categories to the presocratics to Descartes… we learn how to think, how to think about how we think, how to think about how others think, why we think, whether we should think, how dogs think… there’s a lot of thinking involved.
- While I won’t necessarily need to know anything about Aristotle’s opinion on how the soul and intellect coexist, to be a productive member of society, by the end of this course I will be exceptionally good at, well, thinking. I can problem-solve. I can grasp new concepts and name them (I thought this was one of those things people could do upside down, asleep, with their eyes closed, but it turns out it’s a lot harder than you would suppose). I can also consider the natures of things, and why things even exist in the first place. In other words… I can sleep at night.
- Ok. I’m just going to say, I hate math. I hate science slightly less.
- I will also say, my professors describe these classes as being the most “useful,” but I think my time would be better spent learning to say the alphabet backwards in under 30 seconds while alternating an Australian and German accent. So, I’m not the best person to defend this part of my degree. The last thing I will say is, having to take these classes and motivate myself to put maximum effort into them teaches me to deal with adversity, and do things I don’t want to.
- Fine Arts
- I haven’t actually gotten to the fine arts part of the curriculum yet.
- One of my professors says this will help me sound spiffy at cocktail parties.
- We learn to read, write, and speak Latin.
- Not only is this the mother language of the Church, but studies have shown that learning Latin rewires your brain in super helpful ways.
- Trivium is another way to study of logic. It’s also the study of truth, persuasion, communication, and organization of thought.
- For me this means, not only can I approach a new problem and come up with a new solution, but I can also explain it clearly to my coworkers — individually, or as a large audience — and convince my supervisor that this new approach is the best yet (and it deserves a promotion ;D ).
- At my school, the first thing we do freshman year is get thrown out in the backcountry for a few weeks with about five other people we’ve never met before. During the rest of our time at school, we lead “outdoor weeks.” We plan the route, sort the rations, check the equipment, pack the gear, doctor injuries, survive extreme weather, deal with faulty equipment, and a whole bunch of other stuff, often with people we don’t like that much.
- (This topic could turn into an entirely separate post, and probably will.)
This is only a fraction of what I have to say on the topic, so if you have questions, leave them in the comments and I’ll get back to you!