Education is Timeless

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David Brooks, Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times. Click on image to go to its source, where you can view his bio.

          When reading an introduction to humanism, as an assignment for class, I was somewhat surprised by how much I could relate to the renaissance values that were described.  The reading was from A History of Western Society, and it argued that, “One of the central preoccupations of renaissance humanists was education and moral behavior… They taught that a life active in the world should be the aim of all educated individuals and that education was not simply for private or religious purposes, but benefited the public good” (McKay 414).  I believe that these values are as much alive today, at Oregon Episcopal School, as they were in the renaissance. Humanists believed that a well-rounded, educated person benefited the community and that it was important to have education for everyone. Today you can see this type of education, still alive, in colleges and high schools, known as the liberal arts education.

If you are anything like me, growing up in a family of technology, then you have heard people debating the importance of the liberal arts; maybe you have even wondered about it yourself. While many people lose faith in the liberal arts when the economy is tough, some argue that it is important no matter what field you go into. One advocate for the cause is the New York Times, conservative, columnist David Brooks; see his picture above. He suggests several reasons for why a liberal arts education is important. Humanities, he says, improves your reading and writing skills, and “you will have enormous power if you are the person in the office who can write a clear and concise memo” (“Why liberal arts still matter, especially today”). One of his most interesting arguments for studying humanities is what he calls “familiarity with the language of emotion.” He suggests that branding is one field in which this is extremely important, using as an example the analogy that, although many people can make a product, such as an mp3 player, very few people can create the brand of an iPod. He believes that one must arouse affection using the language of emotion in order to create a brand, and that the only way one can do that is to be versed in the language of romance, by studying the Humanities. By reading the classics people can more easily express their opinions and viewpoints, and as the humanists of the renaissance believed, become more valuable members of the community by being well-rounded, educated people.

Works Cited

Brooks, David. “Why liberal arts still matter, especially today.” Dallas Morning News [Dallas] 8 jun 2010, n. page. Web. 1 Feb. 2012 <http://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/latest-columns/20100608-David-Brooks-Why-liberal-arts-895.ece&gt;.

McKay, John P, Bennett D. Hill, John Buckler, Clare Haru Crowston, and Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks. A History of Western Society. 9th edition. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2008. Print

Smith, Wilson, and Thomas Bender. American Higher Education transformed, 1940-2005: documenting the National Discourse. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008. Google Books. Web. 9 Feb 2012. <http://books.google.com/books?id=KFNy-BIExW8C&lpg=PA163&dq=liberal%20arts%20education%20humanities&pg=PA163#v=onepage&q=liberal%20arts%20
education%20humanities&f=false>

Malekin, Peter. Humanism and the Humanities in the Twenty-first Century. Cranbury: Rosemont Publishing & Printing Corp, 2001. Google Books. Web. 9 Feb 2012. <http://books.google.com/books?id=F1cjv5An4x8C&lpg=PA81&dq=humanities%20in%20the%20current%20world&pg=PA4#v=onepage&q&f=false&gt;

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7 comments

  1. avaz121

    Well Done, Katie!
    One quick notice: when your readers are from outside the school (i.e. internet users), use full name to mention the school.
    Indeed, liberal art should be a part of the fundamental education to people in modern society. Knowledge on arts, literature and language, in my understanding, is the extra help to people pursuing science and business career. People do not need classical literature and philosophy to survive in the real world, but such education in humanities is helpful to ensure better lives. I think liberal art education acts based on existing financial security.

    • katiereindeer

      Ava,

      Thank you for mentioning the use of the school name. I have edited the blog to include the full name.

      I completely agree that liberal arts education can truly help people throughout their lives, even if it is not necessarily needed in order to survive the real world. I also think that you have touched on an interesting topic of financial security. In our society it seams that a liberal arts education is not viewed as necessary, so it is not given high priority, especially when it come to the distribution of government funds for public education. It is seen as something that is good but more of an extracurricular than a mandatory part of any good education. I believe that there are a lot of reasons to argue that the government should spend more money on creating a liberal arts style education in the public schools.

      Katie

  2. mralexacademic2014

    I really enjoyed reading your post, but it kind of left me wondering: Do you think that the liberal arts are important? I understand that these values take part in your everyday life, but do you think that they are a good influence?
    Either way, it was a good article and fun to read, thanks.

    • katiereindeer

      Alex,

      I am glad to hear that you enjoyed my post. I do believe that the liberal arts are important; moreover, I believe they are an essential part of any good education. I intend on getting a science or engineering degree in college, but even though I do not wish to pursue a liberal arts major, I believe that getting a well rounded education is an extremely good influence. I have always had a strong belief that liberal arts were benificial, but even still David Brooks article really did leave an impression on me. I feel that he makes an extremely good argument for the cause by explaining specific reasons why a liberal arts education can help you succede in any career.

      Katie

  3. harperlarp

    Katie: I really liked reading this! It gave me a fresh viewpoint as to why the liberal arts are important in terms of developing skills. However, I’m still curious as to whether you think the liberal arts are important in terms of careers where writing isn’t as necessary a skill, such as engineering. Also, you mentioned humanists desiring education for everyone; how do you think that fits with the fact that many liberal arts colleges are now private schools?

    • katiereindeer

      Harper,

      Thank you for your post, I am so glad that I was able to convey some of my deep appreciation for the importance of a liberal arts education.
      I believe that liberal arts are important in a variety of ways, regardless of what field you go into. Writing is really an important part of almost any career, including engineering. Being able to write a good press release, a technical blog, a book on your subject of expertise, or just a persuasive email is invaluable. If you are interested in other reasons why liberal arts is important in all careers I would strongly recommend reading David Brooks’ article.

      When we say we want education for everyone, we think of scholarships for people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to pay. In humanists terms, though, it is slightly different. When they said that they wanted education for everyone, it meant they wanted education available for everyone. Even after the renaissance era, education continued to be only for the elite who could afford it. I believe that Humanists would however be strong supporters of financial aid at liberal arts colleges.

      Katie

  4. noah4024

    Hey Katie,
    This was a very insightful and interesting blog, and was a great read!
    I noticed a repeated idea that really caught my eye, which was that humanism thought of education of an individual as a benefit to the community, rather than just a benefit to that individual. Im curious to hear your opinion on this matter. Do you think this idea is practical? Also, what is the role of this idea in society today? Thanks.

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