The Liberal Arts in School and College
Stanley N. Katz:
The debates that dominate the discussion of the transition from high school to college today assume that the sole function of high school is to prepare graduates to succeed in college courses. If we look at secondary education from the point of view of the liberal arts, however, we can discover a fundamentally different concept of its purpose — and of the capabilities of adolescents. A liberal-arts focus shows how different American assumptions are from those of the other industrialized nations with whom we compete globally today.
Posted by Jim Zellmer at March 14, 2006 6:58 AM
Let me start with two points. First, liberal education (by which I mean an engagement with the major aspects of human knowledge and values) is not a throwaway, a bauble for rich kids in select institutions who are going to get good jobs no matter what they study. Liberal education is, or should be, at the core of training our youth to serve themselves, their country, and the world. Second, liberal education is a process laden with content that stretches over an extended period of schooling — at the very least from the third year of high school through the second year of college — and arguably over the entire eight years for those who attend the two institutions.
The question I want to raise is whether we, in the United States, assume that the majority of students aren't ready to take on a challenging liberal-arts curriculum until they get to college. Have we implicitly taken for granted that adolescents are not capable of tackling the liberal arts? And must we assume, as I think we do, that college students need to get through studying them as quickly as possible, in order to go on to more-professional studies?
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