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Thread: Does Public Education over emphasize the Liberal Arts?

  1. #1
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    Does Public Education over emphasize the Liberal Arts?

    Going off Wikipedia, I mean as a methodology that develops rational thought and intellectual capabilities through multiple fields of the study, as opposed to vocational, professional, and technical schools.

    My experience in pre-secondary school public education, though admittedly not what most Americans would consider a gold standard, leaves me highly unconvinced of its cost-effectiveness.

    Trying to teach students what they don’t want to learn is like Sisyphus rolling the boulder up the hill, and my experience suggests students don’t want to learn the majority of what they are taught. Once someone is introduced to a field of study through a class, retaining adequate knowledge of it requires continual study, and application of theories to real events.

    Even A-students usually limit themselves to memorizing material for tests and papers, forgetting about it afterwards. I could ring up my brother, who was Valedictorian and had a very good understanding of mathematics up through Calculus, and drill him about questions on that and other subjects he aced back in the day. Very likely I would receive bemused silence in return. He is not the only successful student who would have such a response.

    The basic goal of education should be to transform adolescents into (1) good citizens who can understand and maintain a democratic-republic, (2) productive members of society who can manage their own households, (3) practitioners of humanist morals and habits who are active in their communities; the sorts of things American society desperately needs to survive and flourish and which education is not providing.

    Traditionally it is believed the best chance for those things arises from general study offered through the liberal arts, but I think we can develop enough awareness of the limitations of the adolescent mind and our current education system to develop a vocationally-centered system that can direct the youth to the occupations listed above from toddler years to young adulthood.

    Of my own experiences I consider most vital to my belief in this theory, they can be summed up in the role geography has played in my intellectual life: at the time I studied it in high school, I had no sense of the purpose behind the class and proceeded through it much in the manner of the A-students listed above (though I think I got a B). It was sometimes enjoyable while I took it, but it didn’t distill much lasting knowledge for the reasons listed above. Later on, I developed a limited (though useful) understanding of geography through independent liberal arts study (particularly the histories of the Ancient Greeks/Romans/Neoclassical texts, and some contemporary scholarship focusing in different historical periods around the globe) and truth be told the Total War series of video games (modified versions of which I believe ought to be utilized in geographic-historical studies wherever applicable).

    That knowledge has helped me a great deal in understanding contemporary international relations as they are transmitted through news media, but the fact is it developed as an accessory to a field of study I had a great deal of personal interest in, and very little of it can be traced to the class of geography itself.

    Some people would contend something valuable has been lost in emphasizing such practical knowledge over general academic pursuit, but since our current system fails to distill either appreciation or lasting knowledge of academics, I would argue that nothing has been lost and something very valuable could be gained from a reform designed more to appeal to experience and to develop usefulness.

    Above all else, I don't want students to lose sight of the purpose of what they study and its relevancy to their own life and experiences. That's the beginning of the end for any form of knowledge.
    Last edited by Morality Games; 09-22-11 at 03:01 AM.
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    Re: Does Public Education over emphasize the Liberal Arts?

    I don't believe there is enough emphasis on liberal arts. Liberal arts is more than just memorizing a series of data and regurgitating it later. Knowledge retention is and has been looked at extensively, and in my field it's of particular importance since in physics many students who take it will end up retaining nothing. However, there is a more important aspect associated with liberal arts and that comes through the use of critical thinking. And it's here that one can say one of the true powers of liberal arts education lies. Even if we forget what we've memorized, we are able to keep the critical thinking. Liberal arts should teach people to question and think about answers more so than learning which way to turn a wrench to loosen a bolt (I use the right hand rule). The ability to critically think is something which I feel is really leaving the American populace. Too much people want to opposite of liberal arts education, they want to know how what they're learning is going to fit into the cog necessary to do their job; and that's not so much liberal arts as it is more accurately labeled as vocational. That focus I fear has driven away intellectual and academic pursuit and has caused us to lose a lot.

    In the end you don't just want a cog. A cog can be replaced with an appropriate robot. You want thinkers, you want people who can analyze and question circumstances, who can weigh out the data in front of them and come up with intelligent solutions. It's imperative not just for the success of the individual to be able to think, but for the Republic as a whole. And on this front, we should be doing more.
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    Re: Does Public Education over emphasize the Liberal Arts?

    Liberal Arts is not overemphasized, but liberalism is.
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    Re: Does Public Education over emphasize the Liberal Arts?

    The methodology is wrong, not the content.
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    Re: Does Public Education over emphasize the Liberal Arts?

    here is how subjects should be taught, in order of priority:

    1. Math.
    2. English.
    3. Biology/chemistry
    4. History of the USA
    5. History of the World.
    6. World religions
    7. World cultures
    8. Music/art/theater

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    Re: Does Public Education over emphasize the Liberal Arts?

    No physics?
    You know the time is right to take control, we gotta take offense against the status quo

    Quote Originally Posted by A. de Tocqueville
    "I should have loved freedom, I believe, at all times, but in the time in which we live I am ready to worship it."

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    Re: Does Public Education over emphasize the Liberal Arts?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ikari View Post
    No physics?
    eh....put that after world history.

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    Re: Does Public Education over emphasize the Liberal Arts?

    I think high school should be run more like community college, where students can have limited input into what subjects they need to study. Students who go into a hard science field can have advanced options in math and physical sciences, while those who want to go into more creative fields (or want to subject themselves to life under minimum wage) can focus more on artsy-fartsy subjects and pursuits.

    The truth is that when all those parents tell little Timmy he's going to grow up to be a doctor or scientist or President of the USA, the overwhelming majority of them are lying. However, we can't just tell a kid he's too stupid to do anything other than mule labor. Why force that kid into algebra or physics? Just give him basic skills from classes that won't cause smoke to pour from that underutilized brain.

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    Re: Does Public Education over emphasize the Liberal Arts?

    Quote Originally Posted by Gipper View Post
    I think high school should be run more like community college, where students can have limited input into what subjects they need to study. Students who go into a hard science field can have advanced options in math and physical sciences, while those who want to go into more creative fields (or want to subject themselves to life under minimum wage) can focus more on artsy-fartsy subjects and pursuits.

    The truth is that when all those parents tell little Timmy he's going to grow up to be a doctor or scientist or President of the USA, the overwhelming majority of them are lying. However, we can't just tell a kid he's too stupid to do anything other than mule labor. Why force that kid into algebra or physics? Just give him basic skills from classes that won't cause smoke to pour from that underutilized brain.
    My high school wasn't far off of that. I took 2 years of each science (Biology, Chemistry, and Physics) and Calculus in high school. They didn't have to. We had some restrictions of course. You have to take Z amount of a, b, and c sort of thing. There were advanced classes for the advanced and remedial classes for the not as advanced. Hell we even had a work study option for seniors. People didn't have to take physics, but they would have to accumulate the proper number years of science. Even if it was "earth science". Algebra everyone should learn. Everyone should learn it in Jr. High as that is the appropriate level for algebra. I can understand people not needing calc (it would do them well to take it though); but algebra is akin to addition and subtraction. Everyone should know how to do it.

    In the end, I do think we need to keep up a bit more rigorous academic standard in our schools. Elementary school goes pretty hardcore these days, but it begins to fall off in Jr. High and by high school there's not much gain. It should be kept up through out. Significant focus should be spend on math, science, philosophy, English, history, and civics. Foreign language, art and music should be heavily suggested and some amount required. Probably just do away with study hall, that was a waste of an hour.
    You know the time is right to take control, we gotta take offense against the status quo

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    Re: Does Public Education over emphasize the Liberal Arts?

    Would you know who Sisyphus is without the "liberal arts"?

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