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Why a Liberal Arts Education

Reprinted from the 26 January 2019 E-Newsletter













From the beginning of our vision, the Collegium has been first and foremost about preparing students, as they transition from home to independence, to live holy lives, to live life here on earth so as to gain them, and their families, happiness in heaven.  The knowledge and formation gained in a liberal arts education is paramount to this goal.
John Henry Cardinal Newman’s ideas about Catholic education are often quoted, particularly the excerpt from one of his 1851 lectures on The Present Position of Catholics in England.  In this description Cardinal Newman describes eloquently the relationship between faith and reason, the importance of knowing history and theology in defending the truth, and the importance of knowing the faith in order not to drawn away from it.  All of this, says Newman is because “you have souls to be judged and saved.”   This is the primary value of a liberal arts education, especially a liberal arts education that is faithful to the Apostolic teachings of the Church and grounded in her traditions.


















In addition to this primary value, liberal arts education also has a significant value in the work force today.   In an August 6, 2018 Forbes article, ten essentials skills for success in the work force were listed by the World Economic Forum:

  1. Complex problem solving

  2. Critical thinking

  3. Creativity

  4. People management

  5. Coordinating with others

  6. Emotional intelligence

  7. Judgement and decision making

  8. Service orientation

  9. Negotiation

  10. Cognitive flexibility

These are all skills that are developed in a liberal arts education.  

However, students do not always see the relationship between their education and these skills.  For example, my background is music.  Music students don’t often think about these skills explicitly, but they are involved in problem solving and creativity hours every day when they are tasked with taking a piece of music on a page and turning it into a competent and inspiring performance.   They coordinate with others (work in teams) in small chamber ensembles, choirs and orchestras.  They manage people when they lead or conduct those same groups.  They develop extraordinary listening skills, which are a critical part of emotional intelligence.   They learn to negotiate when they juggle the needs of a client wanting a performance with the skills and costs of the available musicians.   While all of my degrees were in the field of music, I was effectively the COO of a university college with a $20M annual budget for ten years.  My music education provided exceptional training for this work.

On the other hand, even if students might see some of these relationships, they are rarely able to articulate them.   At the Collegium, we are implementing specific tools to help students not only see the relationships, but also be able to articulate them.   One program we are investigating is called Q4+3.  It combines an understanding of basic personality types with some experiences designed to use this understanding in developing better critical thinking, communication, and visioning skills. 

As time and experience teach us, we will certainly tweak the specifics of this program, but the goals will remain prominent: to help our students prepare not only for a future in heaven, but also for a productive future in the work place.



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