www.bloncampus.com | November 29, 2017
Liberal arts encourages students to engage intellectually across disciplines and specialisations
Much as we would like to have it otherwise, we live in a world that is fractious and divided — dangerously so — in blocks that are political, economic, strategic and military. Add to this the real-time access all of us have to social media, with its wide reach, and you see that the scenario today, for an ordinary citizen anywhere in the world, is fearsome, confused and uncertain.
As an independent sovereign nation and as a group of individuals, we see that today, there is a far greater need for more civil, considerate, and tolerant discourse. There is hardly any corner in the world which is free from conflict that not only endangers local and regional peace and harmony but also threatens global peace and order.
We live in a world which is less balanced than in the previous six decades following World War II. However, it is also multi-dimensional, multifaceted and extraordinarily diverse. In order to make our world safer, more harmonious and more peacefully productive, we need to have an education that prepares the current and future generations for the imperatives of such a world.
Of opinions and disagreements
What is required is an education that is dedicated to free and open knowledge, and that provides a multifaceted view of the world. Put simply, it is education that trains the mind to simply agree to disagree and base opinions on reason and logic rather than passion and emotions.
Such an education exposes students to a variety of subjects, including the study of arts, humanities, physical and natural sciences, social sciences, environmental sciences, languages, critical thinking, logic and writing. It is not only through the diversity of subjects that students can better understand the world they live in, but also the ideas and cultures of people other than themselves.
It is truly in the study of liberal arts that one learns to understand how to express one’s ideas objectively; to analyse and appreciate others’ thoughts and views; adapt to new technologies and innovations; and cooperate and collaborate with others.
A liberal arts education, in addition to equipping students with the skills required in their chosen profession, empowers them to understand life and its nuances while engaging in diverse and often conflicting academic and social interactions. It is an experience that enriches life and makes it socially useful, productive and in consonance with the larger environment.
A balanced liberal arts programme, in addition to focusing on arts, humanities and social sciences, also provides students the fundamentals of science and environment, logic and reasoning, thus giving them a new way of interpreting and understanding the world. It engenders respect for competing voices, interests and groups.
Questioning one’s views
One of the most interesting concepts in liberal education is challenging the notion of ‘the right answer to a particular problem’. The very nature of such education makes students challenge their own views, other traditions and customs, and science and technology. This continuous pressure to adjust is, in itself, the process of understanding with openness and assimilation. While there has been an encouraging upward trend in enrolment in higher education across fields, it has been particularly impressive in the world of arts.
In a country like ours with infinite richness and diversity, it is important to provide students the opportunity to engage intellectually across disciplines and specialisations.
To sum up, liberal arts education is a wonderful opportunity to make young people understand and celebrate diverse identities, while appreciating the fact that we, as a nation, are a part of the larger global community.