Champions of Liberal Arts Education

March 2012

march2012blogUniversity and College campuses look different than they did 10 years ago.  Students carry laptops, iPods, iPads, smart phones; they expect wireless connections; they communicate globally; and they are older and often attend classes from the comfort of their dorm room.  Professors are changing their teaching techniques in order to keep up with expectations and the variations of content delivery, often putting podcast of seminars online and using recorded voice instructions to help students complete assignments.

Among all these changes, there is still a strong argument for the distinguishing features of American higher education rooted in the liberal arts.  The liberal arts are sometimes viewed with scepticism by students, parents and other observers who think that professional preparation and workforce development are the more important an pragmatic purposes of higher education.  Nannerl Keohane, who presently serves as Laurance S. Rockefeller Distinguished Visiting Professor in the Woodrow Wilson School and the Center for Human Values at Princeton University, recently mentioned in a presentation at the Council of Independent Colleges’ 2012 Presidents Institute, that: “The American liberal arts college model is now gaining favor in other parts of the world where a strong case is being made for the central role of the liberal arts as the best way to develop critical and integrative thinkers, productive and creative employees, committed and compassionate citizens, and happy and healthy human beings.”

Higher education today is not just a simple matter of teaching students business and health care skills.  Employers are now expecting their workforce to solve problems, demonstrate human understanding and an ability to relate to people.  These expectations are just as valued in the workplace as the ability to do the job.  The University of California Berkeley describes the impact of a liberal education this way: “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.” From Albert Einstein came the view that, "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."

At Washington Adventist University, we are committed to the aim of true education identified in Education, by Ellen White, as “the harmonious development of the physical, the mental, and the spiritual powers.  It prepares the student for the joy of service in this world and for the higher joy of wider service in the world to come.”

This is Washington Adventist University!