Just witnessed my daughter’s graduation. She survived four years at Davidson College. The college president spoke to the class. President Quillan talked about her own collegiate career, and stressed how a liberal arts education is not out of step with America.
In tough economic times, education gets a different focus and scrutiny. When I went off to college in 1980, the country was still in rough economic shape. I was committed to getting a business degree and took required classes in other fields just enough to get a BS. I didn’t partake in them with the same fervor I did a business school class.
Post college, I read the book The Closing of The American Mind by Allan Bloom and found myself agreeing with a lot of it. As I told one of my daughter’s professors, I felt like I wasted four years of my life.
My daughter chose Davidson for the Humanities core. At Davidson, they teach humanities how they ought to be taught. As President Quillan said, the school offers the most rigorous undergraduate academic experience in the nation. The kids didn’t come to party.
Too often, liberal arts professors and advocates sell themselves short. Professor Quillan in her address touched on some of the themes that make a liberal arts education grounded in Western civilization the most useful in this day and age.
Too often, the academic community gets wrapped up in social justice, and other themes that prevent the power of education to be released. As soon as constraints are applied, ideas get tougher to generate.
Liberal arts understood correctly teach the thinker to be vulnerable. That vulnerability allows them to take risks. Taking risks is what America used to be about. It’s how the country was founded, and how it thrived. Without risk takers, countries don’t innovate and grow.
Who knows where kids that graduate today will go. Many will start down a path only to find that it twists and turns. Life isn’t like it used to be. Macro economic forces worldwide will force them to renew themselves over and over again. There won’t be a hierarchy or stair step path.
That’s why seeing more and more kids avoid the tough road of a Humanities core, and also seeing that path being politicized by faculty, gives me pause. America needs homegrown creative out of the box thinkers. That’s what my daughter really learned while she was studying St. Augustine.
There is a place for colleges devoted to liberal arts like Davidson. But, they need to add a twist to their curriculum. They need to relate it to entrepreneurship. More kids will be attracted to it, and we all will be better for it.