The Value of a Liberal Arts Education

February 1, 2009
By christine BRONZE, Luck, Wisconsin
christine BRONZE, Luck, Wisconsin
4 articles 4 photos 0 comments

His eyes peer past thin wrinkles as he ponders my question. 'What are shooting stars, Grandpa?' My grandpa can always give me a good answer. I nod, listening attentively. I think about the many stories I've heard: where he's been, what he's done. I can't help but want to be like him when I grow up. I asked him once how he knew so much. He smiled and told me it was what one did with what one knew. I believe him.
Biology. Chemistry. Organic Chemistry. Inorganic Chemistry. Pharmacology. Anatomy. Physiology. All necessary to be a doctor. My world will become one of gamma globulins, serotonin, hemostats. What then is a patient? A walking problem I've got the degree to right? What becomes of the guitar that callused my fingers? The dog-eared poetry? The languages that created for me a secret world? What becomes of who I am?
I am a doctor that writes, I am an interpreter that teaches. I am all I love and all I've ever wanted to be. It is not possible without a liberal arts education. My mouth is shut until my mind is opened and when my eyes are opened no door is shut. This is the essence of a liberal arts education.
In specialized and narrow education we see the world in the context of what we've learned. It'll be impossible to reach out and initiate conversation with someone out of our field. Where does our education overlap? What common knowledge of the world do we share? We shall be at an endpass until we learn of things that unite us. Boundaries and limitations will dissolve. The mysteries of the world are ours to discover. And with this knowledge that spans centuries and bridges cultures, we are incessantly made aware, now not only of all it has to offer, but of all this world needs. We begin to realize what this world needs from us. For, who is better to help?
To utilize resources available to us in the world we must posses an innovative and creative intellect. Global solutions will require collaboration. No one has more to offer a community than someone with a liberal arts education. They posses the framework of mind to assimilate new information. They posses the words to explain the solution to a problem. They understand the world as a whole. Teachers instill in us the desire to not only know but to contribute what we know. It is this desire that generates leaders with versatility and informed citizens of the world with a cause.
Can it be said of a tree with no branches that it is still a tree? Each new thing we learn builds upon another within our minds until we gain a functional and all-encompassing view of the world that enables us to form our own opinions and cross cultural barriers. A tree with no branches has no connection to the outside world. A person with no education does not either.
Therefore with a liberal arts education I won't have to sacrifice everything that makes me who I am. I can be a doctor as well as a guitar-strumming poetry-loving Spanish-speaking person who sees their patients as human beings of the world.
'Well, one day I won't be able to answer all your good questions,' my grandfather told me. 'Nah, you'll always know the answer,' I replied. 'No, you'll have to find the world just as I have done, Christine; ask it all your heart desires. Once you know, you must return the favor.'

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