“The pleasure arising from thinking and learning will make us think and learn all the more.”

 -Aristotle, Ethics

A liberal arts education, as a general concept, involves integrative learning—transdisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary study—through history.  Such an inquisitive and broad approach to education produces well-rounded, better educated and happier, more fulfilled human beings.  Many individuals throughout time, from Socrates to present, have suggested that a liberal arts education is one of the highest pursuits of humankind.  In today’s world the liberal arts are usually best studied through integrative explorations in the humanities.  According to the Association of American Colleges and Universities:

“Integrative learning is an understanding and a disposition that a student builds across the curriculum and co-curriculum, from making simple connections among ideas and experiences to synthesizing and transferring learning to new, complex situations within and beyond the campus.”

While according to the National Endowment for the Humanities:

“The term ‘humanities’ includes, but is not limited to, the study and interpretation of the following: language, both modern and classical; linguistics; literature; history; jurisprudence; philosophy; archaeology; comparative religion; ethics; the history, criticism and theory of the arts; those aspects of social sciences which have humanistic content and employ humanistic methods; and the study and application of the humanities to the human environment with particular attention to reflecting our diverse heritage, traditions, and history and to the relevance of the humanities to the current conditions of national life.”

Simply put, the humanities study human culture throughout the world from the first moment of human existence until the present via the exploration of a variety of disciplines.  Because all cultural production of all human beings in all times is such a vast subject, the liberal arts often aim to study specific reoccurring themes in culture, as well as certain cultural production at certain times, and to investigate representative cultural production (often with social scientific, fine arts and literary slants) that best captures the human spirit—those “true and beautiful” works that best make sense of who we are, where we have come from and where we are going.

Rodney J. Marshall, Ed.D.

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