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Liberal Arts 2.0
February 4, 2009 3:44 PM   Subscribe

"What are the new liberal arts?", asks SnarkMarket, inspired by Jason Kottke's tagline and Edge. The blog post has turned into a pitch for a new collaborative book, with spirited discussions and over 100 suggestions including photography, design, relationships, mythology, intuitive thinking, synthesis, knowledge mastery, search, archiving, play, and home economics.
posted by divabat (44 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Was there something wrong with the old ones? Is there a reason, beyond just the presentism/neophilia of the crowd for whom "2.0" is always a hot moniker, for undertaking this project, and for leaving the academy out of it, and for its seeming lack of consciousness of the centuries of history behind the 1.0? I can't really find a
posted by RogerB at 4:01 PM on February 4, 2009 [8 favorites]


(oops, posted too soon) I can't really find a justification or explanation for the project, or why it seemed like an interesting undertaking.
posted by RogerB at 4:01 PM on February 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Who is this Jason Kottke person?
posted by sciurus at 4:05 PM on February 4, 2009


Get your degree in :
* blogging
* twitting
* M-Rotor adjusting
* Advanced degrees in Pitchforkology and Facebookonomy.


Quite honestly and without irony, if people got back to the trivium, they'd be better prepared in life; there's room for growth and improvement, but people don't have the basics on which to build.
posted by boo_radley at 4:08 PM on February 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Postcraft 401: We will explore conventions, methodologies and paradigms of FPPery. Students will work towards a hermeneutic of The Post, interrogating FPP standards from prehistoric sites such as K5 and Slashdot inform contemporary posting norms. Look for seminar opportunities examining lulz and the extended phenotype of memes.
posted by everichon at 4:09 PM on February 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


"Food"?
posted by boo_radley at 4:11 PM on February 4, 2009


Who is this Jason Kottke person?

He has a blog. He's a blogger. Uhh, I think that about covers it.
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:15 PM on February 4, 2009


I don't think the purpose is to discard the skills of the trivium/quadrivium, but rather reformulate and expand upon them in a way that matches the modern world. For example, one of the reason's why music was in the quadrivium was because of the belief that music had a connection to the divine; that entailed certain methods of teaching, certain content to be taught. The "new liberal arts" model seems to not be about "let's not teach music," but rather, "what do we understand music to be? what function does it and should it play in contemporary life? how should it be taught? how does it interact with other subjects/skills/etc?" That's why I find this a fascinating and exciting topic.

On the other hand, boo_radley has a point about people not understanding the basics of logic, rhetoric, and grammar. I teach freshman English, and boy, what they don't know will hurt you. So, we do need to think about what skills/knowledge are embodied by these subjects, how to teach them, how they relate, etc. I believe very much in teaching these "old" subjects, but perhaps by adding new ways. That's another reason why I find this a fascinating and exciting topic.

Anyway, thanks for the awesome post divabat. It has inspired me to think about my ideal education.
posted by Saxon Kane at 4:33 PM on February 4, 2009 [4 favorites]


Everyone would better benefit from a high-octane stats course.
posted by The White Hat at 4:39 PM on February 4, 2009 [4 favorites]


Was there something wrong with the old ones? . . . Quite honestly and without irony, if people got back to the trivium, they'd be better prepared in life

If this project inspires at least a few of the people who hear of it to look into the old liberal arts, to start learning more about concepts like the trivium, it's a damn good thing.

One analogy would be the way that early rocknroll inspired some of its fans to look deeper, to go back to the roots, to start listening to (and supporting) country and blues artists.
posted by jason's_planet at 4:47 PM on February 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wow, a whole new set of majors that won't get you a job. Sweet!
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:51 PM on February 4, 2009


Wow, a whole new set of majors that won't get you a job. Sweet!

In a perfect world, the quadrivium is the stuff they would be teaching you in high school, long before you are even thinking about having a job.
posted by synaesthetichaze at 4:55 PM on February 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well, the quadrivium & the trivium together... and I guess this is what schools *attempt* to teach before you get to university level education. It's just that no one appears to be learning.
posted by synaesthetichaze at 4:58 PM on February 4, 2009


The old liberal arts are fine, thankyouverymuch. Maybe they could go a bit heavier on the mathematics, but beyond that, there's no reason to change.

The reason people don't like the liberal arts, or want to change what constitutes "liberal arts," is because it is hard. Not superlatively so, but it requires more than just superficial opinions, more than the dilettantism being espoused on kottke's worthless page, and more than ego involvement.

The reason they emphasized music was not because it was connected to the divine, or more appropriately, the reason they thought it was connected to the divine was because it required great attention, focus, and disciplne before the student could appreciate it.

Likewise the other disciplines require similar study and focus. A liberal arts education given in 1809 or 2009, gives the student with the ability to understand and interpret his world. It establishes the context. It places the student within history and imparts him or her with some humility. This is the level of thought brought to bear on the past world that enabled the creation of your world. Are you going to aspire to similar thoughtfulness, similar levels of excellence in whatever you do?

AMong these other things, a liberal arts education would enable a student reading these blogs and that snarkmarket site and seeing it for what it is--marketing and self-promotion. Enough already.
posted by Pastabagel at 4:59 PM on February 4, 2009 [21 favorites]


Pastabagel et al: er, did anyone actually read the site, especially the comments? It didn't originally start out as a book. It started out as a question that sparked plenty of comments and led to a suggestion to making it a book. They're not advocating eliminating the current liberal arts completely; they're looking at ways to integrate liberal arts concepts with current advances in technology, information from other cultures, and so on.

Personally for me I find the discussion really interesting, not just in the "perfect school" sense (like Saxon Kane) but also because where I come from, there's nothing called "liberal arts". In secondary school, "Arts" = Accounting or Economics, and "Humanities" = Literature, Art, and a dumping ground for underperformers. Drama? Rhetoric? Unheard of! Heck, I had never learnt anything about rhetoric until last year in university, and that was in a class called Persuasive Writing. In Malaysia, anything that's not Science/Maths (and, in university level, Law/Engineering/Accounting) is considered "useless" and meant only for people who weren't "smart enough". (I caused a ton of controversy in school when I moved to the "last class" to study Literature because that's the only class that had it - plenty of times I was told that I was "wasting my grades".) Liberal arts? What's that?

The discussion reminds me of what Australia classifies as "Creative Industries". Mostly creative arts, but also a lot on urban cities theory, community building, arts as business, and so on. Transforming some of the traditional liberal arts into commercial ventures. Humanities isn't coping so well - a dearth of willing professors to teach and tighter budgets means different priorities. This discussion would be interesting in Australia too - my uni's started to implement some of the suggested subject matters, like Synthesis and electronic communication.

The rest of the world doesn't organise its educational subjects like America does. Not everyone has a concept of "liberal arts".
posted by divabat at 5:12 PM on February 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


RogerB: Was there something wrong with the old ones?

Kind of! The world has changed since then. A lot of sciences have expanded dramatically, for example - you could fit all of what was known of physics in the ancient world in a semester, for example. Now, I think someone should be educated up to the level of at least understanding the very basics of relativity and quantum mechanics. The other fields are just as bad - you should have enough biology to understand the essentials of DNA, evolution, and the phylogenetic tree. Chemistry has gone from a field which barely exists to extreme complexity. Not to mention that some fields have come in existence entirely - does computer science deserve to be included? Biochemistry?
posted by Mitrovarr at 5:14 PM on February 4, 2009


Ask an A-list blogger to describe an ideal education, and, unsurprisingly, you get an unabashedly pragmatic curriculum that can hardly see past the last four years of New York Times bestsellers and New Yorker features.

Having said that, I think that Utopia-building exercises like this are a fine way to elucidate your values and your view of the world and other people.
posted by cobra libre at 5:20 PM on February 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


The two most important things that were emphasized in my non-traditional high school were information literacy and creative problem solving. Those are modern liberal arts that precede much of what else is thought to be liberal arts.
posted by klangklangston at 5:21 PM on February 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


Just a quick read of the old one shows that it's not an attempt to replace the old ones. However, I don't see the listed "new" liberal arts as complementary so much as more specific. Finer grained and more concrete. They aren't new liberal arts so much as applied old liberal arts. Or something. I didn't do so well in the rhetoric and logic area. Oh man, but I wish I pursued my childhood dreams of being an astronomer.
posted by Mister Cheese at 5:22 PM on February 4, 2009


Pastabagel et al: er, did anyone actually read the site, especially the comments?

I did.
posted by jason's_planet at 5:23 PM on February 4, 2009


Oh, it is cute to see them arguing about "photography" and "design," since most of their arguments show a profound ignorance of art theory past 1960. Regarding art as a form of problem solving might be a better move, or lumping it all into "communication and media theory."
posted by klangklangston at 5:25 PM on February 4, 2009


In Malaysia, anything that's not Science/Maths (and, in university level, Law/Engineering/Accounting) is considered "useless" and meant only for people who weren't "smart enough".

The rest of the world doesn't organise its educational subjects like America does. Not everyone has a concept of "liberal arts".


Interesting. I didn't know that.
posted by jason's_planet at 5:26 PM on February 4, 2009


Not to mention that some fields have come in existence entirely - does computer science deserve to be included?

I tend to believe that classical training tends to have a better shelf life (I have both a degree in history, and a technical school diploma. I work in high tech). Logic and Math (maybe even Philosophy) are very useful to understanding computers and help quite a bit with other tasks in everyday life. I think a good basis in logic and math took me further in the high tech world than my high school courses in Quick Basic and Turbo Pascal did.

I've also found that researching, and analyzing the roots and causes of say World War One as a history student isn't really that much different from analyzing and researching the marketing departments' request to figure out which customers spend the most money in the corporate world. Analytical skill is pretty much analytical skill... and taught effectively the Liberal Arts are about teaching people how to think.
posted by Deep Dish at 5:34 PM on February 4, 2009 [4 favorites]


Deep Dish: I tend to believe that classical training tends to have a better shelf life (I have both a degree in history, and a technical school diploma. I work in high tech). Logic and Math (maybe even Philosophy) are very useful to understanding computers and help quite a bit with other tasks in everyday life. I think a good basis in logic and math took me further in the high tech world than my high school courses in Quick Basic and Turbo Pascal did.

Well, some classical training. Logic and math remain useful in the modern world. Speaking latin, not so much.

I tend to agree on computer science, although I think everyone in the modern world needs to understand at least the basics of what makes computers operate (things like what an operating system is, what the processor does, etc.) Logic and math help, but won't teach you those things on their own.
posted by Mitrovarr at 5:50 PM on February 4, 2009


Let's put the "economics" back in "home economics"! Because it's not really just about the home anymore -- you have to think about the broader connections of the organization of your daily life to global operations, histories, labor, politics, geology and ecology. And that is home economics as a liberal art.

economics originally comes from the greek oikos and means household affairs, these are private biological necessities that sustain the life process. now we understand it as subjecting the world to the management of it's necessities, so it's ironic that putting 'economics' back into home economics means making your household decisions subject to the world, like rational consumerism 101.

kottke's summation of the new liberal arts sounds like contemporary white studies: internetting and other miscellany.
posted by doobiedoo at 6:03 PM on February 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


I read many of the comments on SnarkMarket before posting, trying to get a sense of what the point of this endeavor was. When I read them I saw a lot of reinventing of the existing liberal arts' wheel (art should include photography; Chinese is a useful language; reading, writing, logic, and critical thinking are handy skills; the social sciences can help us understand our own society and others – no shit, really?). Some of these ideas, to be fair, were framed explicitly as minor updates to existing ways of teaching and thinking – but I'd want to call that "liberal arts 1.0.1a," this decade's minor maintenance release, rather than framing it as radical! new! web-enabled! anti-academic! free-thinking! in the mostly shallow and self-congratulatory way it's being discussed there. I also saw a lot of people asking "What's the point of all this? The old liberal arts already do what you want." And I saw a lot of pure dipshit ignorance about what the liberal arts were/are for (all the calls for including "marketing," pure vocational-skills training, etc.), totally missing the point of the "liberal," which means preparing the mind for the critical thought required of a free citizen (liberal arts, when describing an education, is IMO a rough antonym for vocational or preprofessional). I'm all for rethinking how we structure our educations, and I understand that drawing up utopian or "modern world"-oriented curricula is an interesting exercise, but the suggestions in those threads (marketing? "food"? Photoshop and Facebook?) seem mostly far shallower, with less sense of historical depth or conceptual/analytic rigor, than the actually existing liberal-arts colleges already provide (though you're mistaken if you think most American undergraduates get that kind of education, either). This, it seems to me, is something that academia is already pretty good at – providing a sampling of a breadth of different disciplinary approaches and ideas, and giving ready access to depth of knowledge in some of them.

Maybe the better version of this discussion is really about what fields and modes of inquiry should be more commonly taught at the undergrad level, or exposed to people when they're learning the basic road map of what ideas and ways of thinking are out there to be learned. If so, I'd vote for geography (or planning/urban studies/etc.) as something that would do well alongside the more usual social sciences, film and cultural studies as full-fledged peer disciplines to literature in the humanities, and cognitive science alongside the other life sciences. Many of these changes, and other similar ones, are incipient in the academy already. But there's already an unresolved tension in this kind of discussion about what is being learned: are disciplines skills or ways of thinking – this is why they're called the liberal arts – or bodies of knowledge to be learned? A discipline as a way of thinking may take a long, long time to master or inhabit fully, but can be sampled in a few months; but the bodies of existing knowledge are getting bigger all the time (as Mitrovarr said upthread in analogizing our physics to the Greeks'), and as soon as we start talking about coverage we are much closer to a zero-sum game in which no one can really achieve competence in all or most of the subjects we might want to list as modern-world requirements.
posted by RogerB at 6:11 PM on February 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


Is there a reason, beyond just the presentism/neophilia of the crowd for whom "2.0" is always a hot moniker, for undertaking this project, and for leaving the academy out of it, and for its seeming lack of consciousness of the centuries of history behind the 1.0?

1.0? The formation of the M.L.A. in 1883, led to some pretty significant change. I'd say we're at least at version 1.5. I wish we were so lucky to be at 1.0. Widening the acceptable fields of study to include German and French led to the creation of such subjects as Latin-American Studies, Women's History, Holocaust Studies, Gay and Lesbian Studies, etc. Where does it end? At Don DeLillo's joke: Hitler Studies. In my opinion, as the range of subjects broadened, the education shallowed. Instead of the liberal arts immersing the student deeper into his own culture, it's now more of an opportunity to read and study as guided by curiosity. I don't think the change has been for the better. Reading according to one's interest is fine and all, but when you claim that these are all equally valid courses of study something is lost. A cosmopolitan view of the world isn't an unconditional good.
posted by BigSky at 6:30 PM on February 4, 2009


BigSky: Widening the acceptable fields of study to include German and French led to the creation of such subjects as Latin-American Studies, Women's History, Holocaust Studies, Gay and Lesbian Studies, etc. Where does it end?

I think the problem with those classes isn't that you take them, it's that the people who take them typically take too many and neglect other areas. It's not a liberal arts education if you come out of it unable to do basic science or math.
posted by Mitrovarr at 6:50 PM on February 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


you have to think about the broader connections of the organization of your daily life to global operations, histories, labor, politics, geology and ecology.

Back in the day we used to call studies of this sort things like morality and ethics. Then someone came up with economics and we got rid of that sort of thing.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 6:53 PM on February 4, 2009


Speaking latin, not so much.

Four years of high school spent in the trenches with Virgil, Ovid, and Catullus prevent me from letting that one slide. Latin was one of the most useful subjects I studied in my formative years. It gave me an invaluable understanding for how languages are constructed, making me not only a better writer but also a quicker study at ALL other languages (not just Romance). I wouldn't have made it two weeks in Arabic if I hadn't understood how all the parts of speech fit together. Sentence-diagramming in English class is pitiful compared to the practical benefit of being able to understand language mechanics across languages.

Also, the ladies melt when I drag out a little of the old odi et amo.
posted by The White Hat at 7:03 PM on February 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


The White Hat: It gave me an invaluable understanding for how languages are constructed, making me not only a better writer but also a quicker study at ALL other languages (not just Romance).

That's part of the learning process when you learn any language, including languages which aren't dead. There was some research a while back that suggested the best training-language to learn was actually Esperanto, of all things.

It's not that I don't think learning Latin is of any value. I just think you maximize your effort by learning something that's actually in use. Learning another live language lets you interact with another culture, which is immeasurably valuable. Plus there are several languages which can all get you jobs if things get rough.
posted by Mitrovarr at 7:34 PM on February 4, 2009


I had Latin in high school and agree that it was an interesting and valuable study, but I have no idea if a couple years of another language would have done the same.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 7:42 PM on February 4, 2009


I've got to take some serious issue with Pastabagel's "get off my 1.0 lawn" attitude.

The reason people don't like the liberal arts, or want to change what constitutes "liberal arts," is because it is hard.

There is nothing to suggest that their goal is to make things easier, so this is really just an irrelevancy.

The reason they emphasized music was not because it was connected to the divine, or more appropriately, the reason they thought it was connected to the divine was because it required great attention, focus, and disciplne before the student could appreciate it.

Possibly, but I'd like to see some citation on this. There were many things that required great attention, focus, etc, but were not considered part of the liberal arts -- painting, for example. Music was thought to have special connection to the divine, and perhaps the difficulty of it contributed to this, but it was also because of its abstract and mathematical nature.

A liberal arts education given in 1809 or 2009, gives the student with the ability to understand and interpret his world. It establishes the context. It places the student within history and imparts him or her with some humility.

But if you think a liberal arts education is, or should be, the same in 1809 and 2009, then you are very wrong. For one thing, the liberal arts as they were taught in 1809 presented a very particular history and perspective on that history; they taught how the ruling classes (white males, and probably white protestant males) made that history, how the ruling classes interpreted that history. A liberal arts education has to change with the times.

And as someone with a liberal arts education I can see beyond the self-promotion and marketing on the page to the value in rethinking education and how the old disciplines can be conceptualized in relation to each other.
posted by Saxon Kane at 9:27 PM on February 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


In related news, I hear that the Swedish Academy is planning to add a Nobel Prize in Blogging.
posted by jayder at 10:50 PM on February 4, 2009


The reason they emphasized music was not because it was connected to the divine, or more appropriately, the reason they thought it was connected to the divine was because it required great attention, focus, and disciplne before the student could appreciate it.

Possibly, but I'd like to see some citation on this. There were many things that required great attention, focus, etc, but were not considered part of the liberal arts -- painting, for example. Music was thought to have special connection to the divine, and perhaps the difficulty of it contributed to this, but it was also because of its abstract and mathematical nature.

Music was also considered to have practical worth, as a form of medicine.
posted by GeorgeBickham at 12:06 AM on February 5, 2009


I think RogerB is spot on pointing out liberal arts is about "preparing the mind for the critical thought required of a free citizen." It's just that the effects of its implementation are often mixed. You have some students who are in maybe a more technical/science program or know exactly what they want to do so they find the liberal arts requirements an added unnecessary burden. And then you have the students who get lost in a sea of obscure courses about like 21st century subcultures and find themselves graduating with degrees in social sciences that don't even exist, which might not be the most effective or focused university experience.

My impression has always been that a diverse education, even for someone who knows they want a degree in hot air balloon geometry and could care less about any -cultures, is a good thing. Maybe it's not for everyone, but being able to understand different ways of thinking and your relationship to the world around you is an ongoing process that can only be helped by a competent education. However it takes a lot of work on both sides, and I don't think that the ideal of a "liberal arts education" can be approached until it is implemented in some fashion with younger students as well. If they don't know how to appreciate this kind of thing when they get to college or don't see the benefit in this kind of education, I think it's because we're doing it wrong early on. Although that much is obvious anyway.

So I just wanted to defend my idea of liberal arts, which doesn't need a bloatware 2.0 version until they work out all of the bugs in version 1.0, which will be like never. Also I thought music was taught because of its mathness. And probably because it is a pure example of how you must exercise to be competent and excel in something.
posted by palidor at 3:10 AM on February 5, 2009


Saxon Kane, Pastabagel: Former medieval music specialist here, so forgive me for a moment of nitpicky geekery...

Music was included in the quadrivium because it was considered a form of mathematics (the quadrivium is the "mathematical" cluster of subjects, while the trivium is the "discourse" cluster of subjects--which was required before entering into the quadrivium). Although medieval scholars had their own ideas of what made astronomy, artihmetic, geometry and music different, music was generally discussed as "the science of ratios" or "the science of proportions."

In fact, the musical intervals that we still use in modern Western music are based on a series of ratios: an octave is created by a ratio of 1:2 (of a length of cord vibrating, which translates into frequency), a fifth is created by a ratio of 2:3. This was known since Aristotle, but it was Boethius in the fifth/sixth centuries that revived the study of music as the study of harmonics and relations and propotions--as numbers in motion. In this greek classical tradition, music wasn't tied to divinity so much as to cosmology (which intersected with divinity to the extent that religion intersects with the cosmos). Boethius theorized that there were three levels of music: "instrumental" music (actually-performed sound, considered imperfect and lowly); "human" music (the proportions of the human body and living things); and "worldly" music (the relations of the "heavenly spheres" in motion, considered a sort of super-human, universal music that subtended the motions of nature and daily life in a 'divine' way).

So the study of music in medieval universities did not turn to actual musical performance until nearly the end of the medieval period (although certain scholar-composers wrote treatises that used this mathematical / proportional understanding of music to develop practicable theories of musical composition, performance, notation, etc.). You were more likely hear architects talking about the "rhythm" of columns in a cathedral or the "harmonics" of proportions between galleries and arches.

So, although modern music studies love to point to medieval liberal arts curriculums to claim that they were respectable before other now-dominant disciplines, this music was more like the science of accoustics, harmonics and proportions, rather than the art / technique of musical performance.
posted by LMGM at 4:12 AM on February 5, 2009 [6 favorites]


(on rereading, I should add: there was certainly a lot of practised music in academia, especially as it was connected to monasteries and the daily liturgical rituals that required singing. However, these musical traditions developed at a distance from the scientific study going on in academic classrooms; this distance was bridged infrequently during the medieval period by theorists trying to explain contemporary practice through classical music theory.)
posted by LMGM at 4:26 AM on February 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


In Malaysia, anything that's not Science/Maths (and, in university level, Law/Engineering/Accounting) is considered "useless" and meant only for people who weren't "smart enough".

In my experience, that's pretty much the dominant mindset in America too.

Wow, a whole new set of majors that won't get you a job. Sweet!

...See?
posted by spirit72 at 5:48 AM on February 5, 2009


Well, some classical training. Logic and math remain useful in the modern world. Speaking latin, not so much.

My wife took latin in high school and if she had her way, it would be standard in American schools. She said studying it gave her a much better understanding of English and it's structure.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:49 AM on February 5, 2009


Thanks for the insight, LMGM. I knew that music studies had a lot to do with mathematics, but I didn't really know the details or how to describe it.
posted by Saxon Kane at 10:14 AM on February 5, 2009


DeepDish has it right:

I tend to believe that classical training tends to have a better shelf life (I have both a degree in history, and a technical school diploma. I work in high tech). Logic and Math (maybe even Philosophy) are very useful to understanding computers and help quite a bit with other tasks in everyday life. I think a good basis in logic and math took me further in the high tech world than my high school courses in Quick Basic and Turbo Pascal did.

My majors were German, history and poli sci. I can write, research and analyze with the best of them, and in multiple languages, too. Right out of college, when I worked for a software company, it was the language skills that got me the job (since we had a lot of international clients). The software stuff was easy to learn...and if I had to, I had good search skills I could use in our help database.

Contrast this to the moron computer science major we hired who thought that if del *.* in c:\temp\ worked well to clear up problems, then del *.* in c:\ would be EVEN BETTER.

It's the Humboldtian theory at work -- more important to sharpen the mental knife than to learn subject specific knowledge that may soon be outdated...
posted by bitter-girl.com at 10:46 AM on February 5, 2009


It's the Humboldtian theory at work -- more important to sharpen the mental knife than to learn subject specific knowledge that may soon be outdated.

Exactly, and I think that rethinking the liberal arts, critical thinking skills, whatever, and how they operate together and in different contexts is key to sharpening this knife, and that's what at least some of the comments in the OP links are attempting to do. Some are subject specific, but others are really about expanding the arsenal of critical thinking skills we have at our disposal and better fine-tuning how they operate.
posted by Saxon Kane at 2:12 PM on February 5, 2009


this whole liberal arts discussion is fascinating because i've only heard the phrase in the american context of the liberal arts college, looking it up i realise that its most likely UK equivalent is the classical education and both of these emerge from a tradition that goes all the way back to roman times, it's grand stuff.

not surprisingly each age has inflected the notion of "general education", so that for the romans it meant distinguishing between freemen and slaves, in the middle ages it seemed to be about accommodating a new account of the divine and the earthly, the renaissance got obsessesed with artistic representation and by the time it hits enlightenment america and becomes the liberal arts i guess it circles around the idea of individual liberty and the critical capacity to support it. we've had two centuries of violent change in every area of the human condition since then so the idea of renewing the liberal arts is both provocative and compelling. i just don't think food, video gaming and internet life skills are the answer and summoning a laundry list is good for many things but not for amending a broad education in a time of dramatic change.

now i don't want to dismiss the suggestions, they do after all fit into a tight pattern of demographic appeal, which is why contemporary white studies: internetting and other miscellany makes so much sense.
posted by doobiedoo at 5:17 PM on February 5, 2009


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