In order to talk about what a liberal education is and what it means to someone I am going to be writing about William Cronon’s views as well as Andrew Delbanco and David Wallace on what they perceive it is. After that I will be writing about my own experiences with USP and my opinion on liberal education. It is important to ideas from many different people because some may think it is a waste of time or money and they might not know how important it is to have a liberal education. After going through the liberal education courses the goal is to help students appreciate it more and be more successful with life after college. Throughout this essay my goal is to attempt to try and help people understand why some people think having a liberal education is important.
To begin, I am going to be discussing what William Cronon’s views are on a liberal education as well as what I think of it. In the essay I read from Cronon it was interesting to see what he perceives a liberal education is because it is not easy to define. One of Cronon’s views is that a liberal education can often be misleading. What he says is it isn’t right to assume that just because someone has gotten through all the courses needed doesn’t mean they have a good liberal education. Cronon writes about an important aspect about a liberal education, “A liberal education is not something any of us ever achieve; it is not a state. Rather, it is a way of living in the face of our own ignorance, a way of groping toward wisdom in full recognition of our own folly, a way of educating ourselves without any illusion that our educations will ever be complete.” I think what Cronon is trying to get at here is that we need to focus on what our wisdom is. Knowing the facts is certainly important, but we need to know more in order to make rational decisions in the real world. Not every situation we come across is going to be the exact same and it is important to know these facts in advance to make sure we’re making the best possible decision for certain situations. I don’t necessarily disagree with what Cronon is saying but I feel achieved after taking the liberal education courses because I feel like I accomplished something I wasn’t intending to. Another thing that stood out to me in Cronon’s essay is all the values that he perceives a liberal education should contain. I will be writing about three of them. William Cronon points out that, one of his values is “They listen, and they hear.” I think what Cronon is trying to say here is that it is very important to listen to what others are saying instead of just focusing on I myself am going to say to contribute to a conversation. In my own experience, I find this difficult because focusing on what others are trying to say may make me forget about what I wanted to contribute. William Cronon points out that, another value is “They can solve a wide variety of puzzles and problems.” For this value I think what he is trying to say is that having a general education will give us the ability to solve a diverse set of problems we didn’t know we were capable of. Having diverse knowledge will also help us identify skills that we didn’t know we had. William Cronon points out that, his seventh value is, “They practice humility, tolerance, and self-criticism.” We need to have the ability to put ourselves in other people’s shoes to know what they perceive as right or what their feelings are. Doing this we will be able to figure out our similarities as well as our differences.
Next, I am going to be writing about what Andrew Delbanco views a liberal education is, as well as my thoughts on it. What a lot of people want to know is if college is worth it. In this video one of the first things Andrew Delbanco pointed out is, “college isn’t necessarily preparing people for the marketplace, but it helps people discover who they are” (00:01:06-00:01:15). This point Delbanco stated interrelates to what Cronon was saying about how it helps us discover our talents/skills. Some of the values he mentioned were people needing to be able to read and write after graduating. The point I think Delbanco is trying to make is that a lot of people may not realize how important something is at the moment but we need to take all of these classes to give us the ability to be more successful with life after college. Having these necessary skills will give us not only more options but help us grow as a person. One downside of college is the cost which Delbanco mentioned in the video. Some people can’t afford to get pursue a good education. In my experience, I can sometimes find it hard to discover who I am sooner if I am forced to classes I know I don’t like because it may be a repeat from high school. For example, having to take accounting, I took an accounting class in high school and didn’t like it then, so it dawned on me when I found out I needed to take two accounting classes when I got to college.
Lastly, when talking about liberal education it may be important to note some of the key similarities and differences between Wallace’s speech on liberal education and Cronon’s essay. I will also be giving my experiences with the USP we have here on campus and my opinions of them. One similarity I found between the two is that we need to know how to actively listen to others. This is important because if we do this, we will be able to put ourselves in other people’s shoes more easily as well as develop our own knowledge/thinking. Another similarity I found, was having a higher liberal education will help us gain a better focus on more aspects of life itself and this could contribute to better decision making in the future. One difference I found between the two is that Wallace talked about how our day isn’t only affected by ourselves, but others can influence it as well. An example that Wallace gave in his speech was grocery shopping after work. He mentioned that it is a very popular thing to do right after work meaning there will be rush hour traffic and these stores will be hard to get in and out of in a short amount of time. However, this may not be the worst thing because it will give us more time to think and make better decisions. In my experience with the USP here on campus it hasn’t been the best, but I feel like it could be improved. After going through these videos and essays it has changed some of my viewpoints on getting a liberal education. Something that I didn’t think about before was being able to discover my own skills/talents. Even though I haven’t discovered them yet, I am hoping the USP program will still do this for me. One of the courses I had to take being a business major was called “applied calculus for business” and I didn’t know why I needed this course. After taking it, I now know it may be important in helping me make better decisions in the business world because I will have a diverse amount of knowledge. Over the past two years here I was a management major because I thought I may open my own business, but I didn’t know I would need all these finance classes and that’s not really what I wanted to do. I think USP is a good idea in theory but unfortunately, it’s not executed properly because it shouldn’t take more than a year just in case someone would want to change their major later in college.
In conclusion, having a liberal education can be important for most college graduates if USP could make some changes. Completing a liberal education in a year in my opinion is plenty of time for people to discover what they like and don’t like as well as find out their talents/skills. We also need to take into consideration people in high school may already know what they want to do with their lives after college so they’re not just wasting time or money. Given how expensive college is, it is important for people to know what they like and don’t like in a shorter amount of time, so they aren’t stuck in college longer than they need to be.