Liberal Arts: Dead or Alive?

by Dr. Lucas Lamadrid | 11/9/04 6:00am

To the Editor:

I have long been a proponent of the liberal arts and have studied the work of John Henry Newman for many years. However, I am beginning to change my tune a bit. Critics of Newman argued that his heralding of the liberal arts rested upon a utilitarian foundation -- namely, the practical and political clout of an Oxford degree. It is fine for academics from elite institutions, such as Dartmouth, to argue for the vivacity of a liberal arts education. But for those from less elite institutions who must hit the pavement hard for any job, I wonder if we do these students a disservice by promoting liberal learning without any practical application. Unless a liberal arts curriculum can show practical results and outcomes, resulting in meaningful employment, I now doubt its benefits. Unless faculty in the liberal arts reinvent a way to display those outcomes and to reconstruct the staid and stale pedagogy that has accompanied most liberal arts courses, it will become harder and harder to persuade families that such an education is worth 150 grand!