Purpose of a Liberal Education

The purpose of a liberal education in the life of a free man is to enable him to make good use of his freedom -- the time that is free for leisure and learning, for his personal growth, morally, intellectually, and spiritually, and for all the things that constitute living well, over and above merely earning a living. - A.E. Rodriguez


What is General Education?

by A.J. Mandt, Ph.D., Philosophy






What is Liberal Education?

Liberal Education is an approach to learning that empowers individuals and prepares them to deal with complexity, diversity, and change.

Often-Confused Terms

Liberal education

Liberal arts






The Purpose of Liberal Education...

"The aim of a liberal education is to unsettle presumptions, to defamiliarize the familiar, to reveal what is going on beneath and behind appearances, to disorient young people and to help them to find ways to reorient themselves>" ( A faculty committee at Harvard University on the purpose of Higher Education)







25 Reasons to Get a Liberal Education


A liberal education will involve you in learning how to learn, to participate actively in learning throughout your life.

You become more adept at problem solving, both by using sharpened analytical skills and by being able to approach situations from multiple perspectives.

A liberally educated person feels more comfortable talking with many different people on a variety of topics.

You become an excellent candidate for specialized and professional training in the health sciences, education, law, business, and graduate programs. In fact, a liberal education forms the base of any successful career.

You can better perceive the many connections that exist between people, places, and ideas. At the same time, you are more able to appreciate the differences.

You won't need to ask for whom the bell tolls.

A liberally educated person knows why everyday life is so utterly extraordinary.

You will be increasingly aware of the many dimensions and influences of the various cultures within our country and throughout the rest of the world.

A liberally educated person knows why buildings and landscapes are more than places and things.

You will personally experience the feeling that Einstein referred to when he said, “As the circle of light expands, so does the circumference of darkness around it.”

You will know why people such as Harriet Tubman, Tashunco Uitco (Crazy Horse), and Chico Mendes matter to all of us.

You will be better able to appreciate what various artists can tell us about ourselves and our world.

You will know why the dark side of the moon is dark and why `Claire du Lune' speaks to us so eloquently.

You will be better equipped to take a stance on controversial technologies such as genetic engineering and nuclear energy.

You won't have to depend on politicians or the media to tell you what good governmental policy is.

Theater can become a world within a world.

You will more clearly realize the complexities that are involved in everyday talk as well as formal presentations.

As you stand upon the hill, you might know some questions to ask.

You will be better able to evaluate what the real costs and benefits of various proposals might be, and who pays and who reaps the rewards.

You will be taking the path less traveled, and that makes all the difference.

A liberal education brings you beyond the `scraps of information' stage.

“Culture is activity of thought, and receptiveness to beauty and humane feeling. Scraps of information have nothing to do with it. A merely well informed man is the most useless bore on God's earth.” Alfred North Whitehead

A liberal education frees you from the bounds of this present time and place for the purpose of being able to return to the here and now and see it from a whole new perspective.

Being a liberally educated person means that you have become more aware of the increasingly inter-dependent and inter-connected community of nations in the world. This is both a matter of survival and personal growth.

A liberal education gives you the tools and knowledge to help formulate not only your individual career, but your wider philosophy and purpose in life.

You won't necessarily know more than other people, but you will know better which questions to ask and you will be better able to distinguish between knowledge and wisdom.

James E. Mills, College of Liberal Arts, University of Minnesota, 1993






On the Purpose of a Liberal Arts Education

Robert Harris, 1991

When they first arrive at college, many students are surprised at the general education classes they must take in order to graduate. They wonder why someone who wants to be an accountant or psychologist or television producer should study subjects that have nothing directly to do with those fields. And that is a reasonable question--Why should you study history, literature, philosophy, music, art, or any other subject outside of your major? Why should you study any subject that does not help to train you for a job? Why should you study computer programming when you will never write a program? Why study logic when all you want to do is teach first grade or be a church organist?

In answer to this question, let's look at some of the benefits a liberal arts education and its accompanying widespread knowledge will give you.






The Conservative Purpose of a Liberal Education

by Russell Kirk

Classical Teacher, Spring 2007

Our term “liberal education” is far older than the use of the word “liberal” as a term of politics. What we now call “liberal studies” go back to classical times, while political liberalism commences only in the first decade of the nineteenth century. By “liberal education” we mean an ordering and integrating of knowledge for the benefit of the free person—as contrasted with technical or professional schooling, now somewhat vaingloriously called “career education.”






On the Goal of Liberal Education

Dialogues, November 2003

by: David Foster

Almost everyone recognizes that there is a crisis in our way of preparing youth for life. Some think the problem is primarily a matter of technical competence; and there is no doubt that at almost every level our students know less, say, mathematics, than previous generations did, and a lot less than is needed to maintain an advanced industrial economy.




 Wonderopolis, a program brought to life by the National Center for Family Literacy, engages and inspires families in the pursuit of education and learning together. We help families create a new force — transforming the parent/child relationship into an engine for progress and upward mobility.








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