Friday, April 30, 2010

What is Liberal Arts?

Macalester is indeed a liberal arts college, as many of you know. But what exactly does that mean?

Some of you have probably heard that universities focus more on research and liberal arts schools focus more on teaching/learning. Personally, I would take that with a grain of salt, although in my experience it is usually true (with exceptions, of course). Still, even Macalester students occasionally seem to lose sight of what it means to be a liberal arts student. Half of the game is the "learning", and that comes to be the sole responsibility of the student him/herself.

You're going to need a major. Yes, it's inevitable if you want to graduate. But to be a liberal arts student doesn't mean being someone whose sole purpose is to fulfill requirements and get a degree. You're here to learn, but that doesn't mean just completing a major. It means gaining a breadth of knowledge.

When you flip through the Macalester Catalog you'll quickly come upon their general education requirements. You'll notice that Mac requires credits in a number of fields as well as second language experience and some diversity courses. The point of this isn't to ruin your plans for a triple major; it's to try and get you to explore.

In essence, you're here to gain a lot of knowledge from everywhere and to develop as a thinker, not as a cog in the wheel of society.

See an interesting Religious Studies class, but you're a Chemistry major? Take it. But it won't help with your major or field of study, you say? Doesn't matter. You're interested and want to learn about it, so take it. Seriously, take it. Your life won't be ruined and all opportunities for a career and everlasting happiness won't be lost if you take some courses for no other reason than because they look interesting.

The fact of the matter is that there are going to be A LOT of courses you'd love to have. Maybe you'd quintuple major if you could, because all these departments look so great. Well, you're going to have to pick and choose. So don't limit yourself with a double/triple major or concentrate only on fulfilling requirements. You miss out on the chance to explore classes, with openings in your schedule to take a class for the sake of LEARNING and ENJOYMENT instead of fulfilling requirements.

Essentially, you miss out on being a liberal arts student.