Liberal Arts in the Make or Break Century

SU AS Liberal Arts Value graphic

As human persons who are causing the sixth great extinction on our planet, we also have the capability to think critically and creatively about the nature of our interaction with the rest of life. We have the ability to change the way we are currently acting in the world and to move towards a sustainable future. It is the great challenge of our time to go about this task of transforming ourselves and society to live in ways that will sustain all life over the long run, and it is the great task of liberal arts education to cultivate wisdom in persons so that we might choose a new way of being and have the knowledge to understand and implement what is necessary to create a more just, peaceful, and sustainable world. The breadth and depth of a liberal arts education help students learn to think critically and creatively about the challenges of our time and be able to develop the moral and cognitive capabilities to meet these challenges and create a sustainable future.

In the midst of our ecological crisis, it would be especially morally irresponsible for colleges and universities to shift towards an overemphasis on discipline specific knowledge at the expense of a liberal arts core. Students in every discipline will be living in a world where the critical and creative thinking cultivated through a liberal arts education is needed by all persons regardless of their major or profession. An education grounded in the arts and sciences and applied through various forms of experiential learning cultivates an aptitude for the lifelong learning we will all need to respond appropriately and effectively to our planetary crisis. If we fail to educate our students to be prepared to deal with these great challenges, if we fail to educate our students for social and ecological responsibility, then future generations will rightfully sit in judgment of our actions, for we will have diminished the value of their lives and the value of all life in this world. Liberal arts education is not just about cultivating well-rounded individuals; it is about cultivating world citizens who will act with wisdom and moral responsibility in relation to each other and all life, for the sake of both present and future generations.

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