A republic needs liberal arts education because it needs citizens who can independently form intelligent, high-minded judgments. They must cultivate their minds, exercise their reason, and learn to trust in the operations of their reason with confidence. Like a monarch, they collectively preside over the court of highest appeal. Beyond themselves, there is no higher authority, and so they must strive to think and act like a sovereign authority. An American college instructor serves the function that the royal tutor served in the monarchies of the old world.
I often tell my students that the reason I amplify and criticize both sides of debates we examine, and do my best to conceal my partisan views, is to force them to exercise and improve their powers of judgment. That result is more important to me than that they parrot my opinions on contemporary political matters. Many issues hotly debated today will pass away tomorrow, and new, unforeseen political questions will inevitably arise. My goal is to assist their intellectual growth so that they reason like good rulers. We college instructors best serve the republic, I believe, if this end prominently guides our conduct. Then, when our former students later face new questions in their personal lives or in the life of the nation, they will be better prepared to distinguish the just from the unjust, the noble from the base, make better choices and live better lives. Then they will not only enjoy their liberty but will also prove that they and their country eminently deserve it.
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
The Value of a Liberal Arts Education
Forrest Nabors, who will be joining the faculty of the University of Alaska, explains the value of a liberal arts education: