Liberal arts education in the USA is something that I believe has been neglected in recent years. As more emphasis is being placed on subjects such as reading, writing, math, and science, subjects like art, music, drama, and the social sciences are being neglected in the secondary classroom.
Many people in the modern age believe that the primary purpose of a high school education is to prepare our students for jobs in the “American Economic Machine.” If this is the case then why are beneficial and, in many cases, necessary subjects being neglected. In many states standardized tests are multiple choice tests designed to see if students can regurgitate the answers that are being shoved down their throats. Although in many ways I can see how this type of learning can make cogs out of our nation’s children- cogs that will mindlessly fit into the “American Economic Machine.” Maybe this is my problem with it. By educating our students in this fashion we are not challenging them to be creative and innovative. I see this as a problem. America is on top of the world, but without future generations that can think outside of the box, how will we stay that way? Another purpose of the secondary classroom is to prepare students for higher education. Although higher education does solve some of the deficiencies of the secondary classroom, it is not an excuse. There are many students that graduate from high school and never continue on to the secondary classroom. They remain mindless drones working the drive through window at McDonalds… the American dream. The ones that do continue on are far from prepared. Most Universities in the United States of America require what is deemed “General Education” as a requirement for receiving a bachelor’s degree. This is where students get their liberal arts education- a well rounded education that they deserved to receive while in high school. In many cases it is a rude awakening for many students. An awakening that is, in most cases, welcomed with open arms.
Even on the subjects that we do emphasize in the secondary classroom, we fall short. In worldwide testing results, American students fall short on the issues of Math and Science. As far as the language arts go, American students are also deficient. Emphasis is placed on one language and one language alone- English. Although this is the lingua franca of the modern era, it has been shown that persons possessing language proficiency in multiple tongues have higher IQ levels. So even if the English proficiency is superior, adequate language arts training is something that the American system is far from adequate at providing. What exactly is the solution to these problems?
Liberal arts education is the solution. It is amazing that the first schools in the history of the world emphasized the liberal arts, and yet today, in the age of computers, mass communications, and spaceships, we think that we are too superior to think about giving our students the liberal arts education of days gone by. I say nay! It is now that this type of training in the secondary classroom should be emphasized more than ever. In the world of the exploding global economy and, as a result, increased global interaction, the basic math, science, and English should not be seen as being good enough to get by.
Understanding the history of our world’s peoples, the paths that we have all led until recent years is important to understand. To get along and to work with other people from other cultures is becoming increasingly important. How can you be expected to appreciate and understand the position of a person from the other side of the world if you know nothing about the society in which they reside? The thinking skills that are developed in the arts of history, philosophy, and sociology are essential to our nation’s success in this global economy. Why then are we depriving our students of the knowledge that they need to be successful after graduation?
One would think that in the melting pot known as the United States of America recognition of the importance of the liberal arts in education would exist. The interactions that occur between people of different backgrounds on a daily basis could be easier if everyone could put themselves in others shoes. Companies would be better off if they could employ people who know about people- humanitarians. They would be better off if they had people who were innovative and creative- artists. They would be better off if they had cultured and well rounded individuals. This is something that can not be achieved without their being educated using not only math, science, reading, and writing, but also, liberal arts.
How will we be able to change this? What is the solution to our problem? It starts one person at a time, like every major movement. I am just glad that I am fortunate enough to be in a position to make a real difference. As a future secondary history teacher, maybe I can inspire my students to pursue a more well rounded education.