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About Intro to Liberal Arts

Historically, Liberal Arts colleges have adhered to a vision of education that is eloquently summarized by scholar William Cronon:

  • Freedom and growth: here, surely, are values that lie at the very core of what we mean when we speak of a liberal education. Liberal education is built on these values: it aspires to nurture the growth of human talent in the service of human freedom. So one very simple answer to my question is that liberally educated people have been liberated by their education to explore and fulfill the promise of
    their own highest talents. (“Only Connect” 1)

During the 19th century, higher education went through an "identity crisis" unsure of what constituted the best education for an independent and developing society.

The crisis led to calls for change in higher education:

  • Appropriate curriculum for these colleges became widely debated in the early part of the nineteenth century. As science and technology became more prevalent and began to shape the world, American society called upon its colleges to provide coursework that suited the new era. In reply to these demands, Yale President Jeremiah Day organized a committee to address the aforementioned debates. The resultant document The Yale Report of 1828 called for ‘breadth in curriculum as the writers of the document doubted “whether the powers of the mind can be developed, in their fairest proportions, by studying languages alone, or mathematics alone, or natural or political science alone” (173).
  • The document further states that “the course of instruction which is given to undergraduates in the college is not designed to include professional studies. Our object is not to teach what is peculiar to any one of the professions; but to lay the foundation which is common to them all” (173). Since its publication, The Yale Report of 1828 has become the classic argument for a liberal education and liberal arts colleges in the United States.

Introduction to the Liberal Arts is your first step in building an education develops all your “powers of the mind.” The goals of ILA are to make you a consummate reader, and a keen thinker. Practically speaking, this means that you will need to spend time reading, thinking, and writing as you begin constructing the knowledge required to comprehend the world holistically: rationally, aesthetically, empathetically. In order to develop those powers of the mind, you’ll learn to read critically; write about and discuss those reading to develop clarity and depth of thinking; and work through the sorts of complex problems which liberal learners have long engaged.

The Goals of ILA

  1. Students will discover the liberal arts as a means to engage with questions of human values, purposes, and communities and as a means to explore connections among disciplines and among diverse perspectives. Students will learn that a liberal arts education can be transformative, preparing them to pursue fulfilling personal and professional lives.
  2. Students will understand key components for engaging in the intellectual and personal challenges of college and for becoming life-long learners. These components include developing a strong and consistent work ethic, adopting an attitude of inquiry, functioning from a growth-mindset, and approaching all aspects of the transition to college with tenacity and resilience.
  3. Students will consider the dynamic relationships among Self, Stranger, and Community and will discover that their own sense of self and their engagement with the community affects their quality of life and the lives of those around them.
  4. Students will understand that reading is an active process that engages readers’ previous knowledge, requires attention to vocabulary and structure, and involves analysis and questioning. Reading provides a means to connect to ongoing conversations that can develop our understanding of ourselves and our world and is a source not only of learning, but also of enjoyment.
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