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Education and scholarship focus on furnishing the mind. By contrast, training focuses on developing skills for performing a job. Education may exist apart from training, but training cannot exist apart from education. Education, then, must be a priority at any college, but especially a liberal arts college.

The desired outcome of a liberal arts education is fully integrated individuals who are able to think critically and soundly about ideas, values, and aesthetics, with the ability to apply the results of these investigations to all types of relationships. It equips students to consider fundamental questions: What is the meaning of life? What is true? What is just? What is moral? What is beautiful?

The appropriate delivery of liberal arts education will correspond to the desired outcome. It will be conducted in the context of mentoring relationships: student to teacher and colleague to colleague. Education will not be conducted within closely protected silos. Rather, it will be integrative and holistic, with colleagues working freely and respectfully across disciplines, traditions, and cultures in dialogue and collaboration with one another.

Instructors in the liberal arts will model integration in their living and in instruction, guiding students to develop a worldview through which they can clearly see, understand, and interpret life. In other words, liberal arts instruction seeks to cultivate people who are truly human. And, part of what it means to be truly human is creative expression. Therefore, the liberal arts both critique and give expression to human existence. Furthermore, both this critique and creative expression enable students to influence positively the culture in which they find themselves.

To summarize, the desired result of liberal arts education is the formation of what once was called an educated person: graduates who know how to live, not just how to make a living. This is the greatest benefit liberal arts colleges offer incoming students in the twenty-first century: the opportunity to be educated, to develop the spirit and skill of inquiry, to acquire the foundation for the journey of becoming truly human. But, training, not education is what Americans increasingly expect from colleges. This expectation presents liberal arts colleges with their greatest challenge in the years ahead.

The goal of a college “education” for many people is (more…)

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