A Liberal Arts Education Connects the Dots

Who thinks anymore? Who among us can 'connect the dots' when confronted with disparate sources of information on a particular subject? Fewer and fewer folks, it appears. For years I've worried about this country's education system that is so focused on 'teaching to the test,' that subjects that demand curiosity and conjecture are shunted aside because what is the answer? How many tests these days require short essay answers in which a student marshals a series of facts and creates a coherent answer? An answer that may be one of many possible answers?
Just read "Is the End of the Liberal Arts at Public Universities Near?" by Erik Lumis, who teaches at the University of Rhode Island.  I agree with him that a liberal education is increasingly devalued and I feel in my very bones that conservatives and corporate interests are not inclined to view a liberal arts education favorably.  After all, such a education teaches a person to think, or as my brother calls it, "the ability to connect the dots." If all a person can do is hold on to a job and listen to media sound bites, then why think? Why bother learning how to put two and two together? Liberal arts offer literature, history, fine arts, anthropology, languages - all subjects that force a student to reflect on context and  'what came before' the latest news cycle sound bite offered by media captured by conglomerates. Give folks bread and circuses. Let community college systems focus on job development curriculum.
A decade ago, I remember being astonished to hear Houston Community College educator's  constantly speak of workforce development. At the time, I had little idea of what that meant, but when I understood the term, I wondered, "Just when do you teach students to think on their feet?" because when we learn to do that, we can master most jobs that come our way. Sure, engineers, lawyers and doctors must focus on specific content, but learning to 'connect the dots' is the most important skill that a good education can give us.
If you can 'connect the dots,' there is no subject or cause or state of affairs on which you cannot give a thoughtful, reasoned or passionate opinion. And you will be able to back up your views and comments with footnotes from your liberal arts education. That ability to think, which I believe is a cornerstone of democracy, is on the verge of being seen as worthless by some and a danger to others. Are we to become like sheep?


I like the idea that a liberal arts education allows one to connect the dots...well said!