sábado, 20 de agosto de 2016

Just being immersed in the Great Books expands your mind and heart and imagination

The Heart of Liberal Education

by Thaddeus Kozinski

Editor’s Note: This essay was originally given as a talk to participants in Wyoming Catholic College’s PEAK camp.

I hope you all enjoyed your summer camp at Wyoming Catholic College, what we callPEAK (Powerful Experience of Adventure and Knowledge): stimulating classes on dialectic, astronomy, theology, humanities, and philosophy; wonderful outdoor adventures repelling and horseback riding; Catholic Olympic games, adoration, and liturgy; good food and fellowship. 

A peak experience, in the general sense, is a “moment accompanied by a euphoric mental state often achieved by self-actualizing individuals.” Well, I am not sure who these self-actualizing individuals are exactly, but in any event, peak experiences are intense, and usually quite rare. 

But what if I told you that you could have a peak experience that lasted four straight years? Of course, you couldn’t survive that! But a WCC education is, in a sense, Peak writ large, and I’d like to talk to you about why I think four years at WCC would be good choice for you if you enjoyed Peak.
  • “I have a degree in liberal arts—do you want fries with that?”
  • “I attended a liberal arts college. I graduated with a Bachelor of Unemployment degree.”
  • “Liberal arts major: will think for food.”
The implied message in these jokes is that the purpose of education, including liberal education, is, whatever else it might offer you, to get a well-paying and secure job. Education as job training. How many of you think this is more or less the truth? Be honest now, and don’t just answer how you think you should answer. There’s good reason that people think this way, especially nowadays, about college education. If you spend money on something, a tool, the tool should work and be worth the investment. College is the place where young, dependent adults become older, independent adults, and independent means, among other things, the ability to make a living and raise a family, and this takes a job. Lastly, college is the only formal, official, and universal rite of passage our culture possesses for becoming a self-sufficient and productive member of society and builder of community—a good American. And this requires, or at least is much more attainable, with a well-paying and stable career.

I think all Americans are in agreement, for various reasons, but specifically economic reasons, that everyone benefits from a college education and therefore should go if he can. All Americans are not in agreement, of course, that everyone benefits from a liberal education, and there is not much agreement about what a liberal education even is. And just about no one in America—well, except for a very small percentage of Enlightened souls!—believes that everyone would benefit from a Wyoming Catholic College liberal education. I’d first like to enlighten all Americans why a liberal education is necessary for everyone, particularly in today’s culture, and then the harder sell: that a WCC liberal education, or something much like it, would be best for everyone. If I am correct, then we will need to have thousands of WCC’s all throughout America. How we shall accomplish that will be the topic of next year’s talk, but perhaps it will already have been accomplished by then! Miracles can happen.

Why is a liberal education necessary for everyone today? You have all heard the standard arguments—the liberal arts teach you how to learn, think, and communicate effectively so that you can succeed in every career. They make you cultured and teach you that there is more to life than pleasure and money. They help you to get a sense of who you are as an American by teaching you the influential ideas, works of art, personages, and events of Western culture, inviting you to participate in the Great Conversation. Just being immersed in the Great Books expands your mind and heart and imagination, making you a better person, more informed, more cultured and cultivated.


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